Cane toads of Australia are so delicious that nothing can eat them. Others

This species has been relentlessly invading the continent and now they are turning to cannibalism.

The cane toad may be the poster animal for invasive species. It is a native of South America and has been introduced into many ecosystems to feed on pests. The toad is now a problem, especially in Australia. The toad is now a pest, free from all the parasites and predators that it used to live in. However, its poison glands are a danger to most other species who try to eat it.

However, it is not immune to predation. Australian canetoad tadpoles were observed eating canetoad offspring. Cannibalism appears to be an evolutionary reaction to the absence of other species within its invasive range. This causes cane toads turn against their last competition, each other. The toad already has an evolutionary reaction to reduce the risk of cannibalism.

You can only compete with yourself

Cannibalism may make evolutionary sense because it can limit competition from other species. But the research team at the University of Sydney that has tracked the cane toad’s cannibalism suggests that the species’ successful invasion of Australia has accentuated this evolutionary pressure–something that may also occur with other invasive predators. One of the marks of an invasive species is its abundance in its new range, at which point competition for limited resources becomes more likely. This competition is limited, but cannibalism also provides nutrition resources.

There is plenty of potential for inter-toad rivalry with the Australian population, which has a density about 10x that of its native Australian range. This competition was documented in early toad development. Recent hatched toads can spend several days becoming tadpoles. They are often eaten by more experienced tadpoles. If there are many eggs in a body of water that is heavily populated, the clutches may become completely extinct before they reach their hatchling stage.

In South America, tadpoles may eat tadpoles. It is more common in Australia. The researchers set out to determine if there were biological differences in cannibalism between native and invasive populations.

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