Invasion of the Cane Toad in Australia

In June of 1935, the cane toad was introduced in Gordonvale, Australia, from Hawaii by the Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations, who wanted to help sugar cane farmers fight a cane beetle infestation. The cane toad was thought to consume the French cane beetle, a threat to Australia’s important sugar cane crops, as its main prey. However, it turned out to only be a small portion of the cane toad’s diet. Soon after the introduction of the first 101 cane toads, their numbers grew rapidly due to the lack of predators and the large habitat. By 1980, the cane toad had spawned into well over five million and spread through almost all of Northeastern Australia. This negatively affected the wildlife in complex and numerous ways, mainly because the toad’s glands produce a poison that is fatal to many species; but there is also competition over resources. The species most affected by the cane toad invasion are freshwater crocodiles, snakes, quolls, and native frogs. Attempts to end the invasion, such as bounties on the toad or quarantines of the population, have not been successful so far.

Contributed by Tyler Wenzel
Course: Global Environmental History
Instructor: Andrew Stuhl, Ph.D.
Bucknell University Lewisburg, US

Further Readings: 
  • Shanmuganathan, T., J. Pallister, S. Doody, H. McCallum, T. Robinson, A. Sheppard, and A. Hyatt, et al. 2010. "Biological control of the cane toad in Australia: a review T. Shanmuganathan et al. Biological control of cane toad." In: Animal Conservation 13, 16-23.
  • Brown, Gregory P., Crystal Kelehear, Richard Shine, and Joseph Rasmussen. 2013. "The early toad gets the worm: cane toads at an invasion front benefit from higher prey availability." In: Journal Of Animal Ecology 82, no. 4: 854- 862.
  • Phillips, B. L., M. J. Greenlees, G. P. Brown, and R. Shine. 2010. "Predator behaviour and morphology mediates the impact of an invasive species: cane toads and death adders in Australia." In: Animal Conservation 13, no. 1: 53-59.
  • Crossland, Michael R., Gregory P. Brown, Marion Anstis, Catherine M. Shilton, and Richard Shine. 2008. "Mass mortality of native anuran tadpoles in tropical Australia due to the invasive cane toad (Bufo marinus)." In: Biological Conservation 141, no. 9: 2387-2394.