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Aussie meat ants may be invasive cane toad's Achilles' heel
Date:3/30/2009

Ecologists in Australia have discovered that cane toads are far more susceptible to being killed and eaten by meat ants than native frogs. Their research published in the British Ecological Society's journal Functional Ecology reveals a chink in the cane toad's armour that could help control the spread of this alien invasive species in tropical Australia.

Professor Rick Shine and his colleagues Georgia Ward-Fear, Matt Greenlees and Greg Brown from the University of Sydney's Team Bufo (from the Latin name for the toxic toad) compared habitat use and activity patterns in meat ants, metamorph cane toads and seven native Australian frog species. They found that, unlike the native frogs, cane toads are poorly equipped to escape the meat ants.

According to Shine: "The spread of cane toads through tropical Australia has created major ecological problems. The ideal way to control toad numbers would be to find a predator that kills and eats toads but leaves native frogs alone. However, bringing in a predator from overseas might have catastrophic consequences, like those that occurred when cane toads themselves were brought in. So we've explored an alternative approach to see if we could use a native predator. Meat ants are abundant around tropical waterbodies, and we often see them eating small toads, so we suspected that there might be some kind of mismatch between the invader and its newly invaded range, for example something about the toads' behaviour that makes them vulnerable to a predator that poses little danger to native frogs."

Through a series of laboratory experiments, Team Bufo looked at when the ants, frogs and toads were most active, where they chose to live, and how good the frogs and toads were at escaping attacking meat ants. They found cane toads opt to live in open microhabitats and are active during the day, patterns that match those of meat ants. By contrast, native frogs are nocturnal and are safely ensconced in
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Contact: Melanie Thomson
melanie.thomson@wiley.com
44-186-547-6270
Wiley-Blackwell
Source:Eurekalert

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