Embryonic exposure to conspecific chemicals suppresses cane toad growth and survival

Michael R. Crossland, Richard Shine

Abstract

Adaptations to suppress the viability of conspecifics may provide novel ways to control invasive taxa. The spread of cane toads (Rhinella marina) through tropical Australia has had severe ecological impacts, stimulating a search for biocontrol. Our experiments show that cane toad tadpoles produce waterborne chemical cues that suppress the viability of conspecifics encountering those cues during embryonic development. Brief (72 h) exposure to these cues in the egg and post-hatching phases massively reduced rates of survival and growth of larvae. Body sizes at metamorphosis (about three weeks later) were almost twice as great in control larvae as in tadpole-exposed larvae. The waterborne cue responsible for these effects might provide a weapon to reduce toad recruitment within the species' invaded range.

  • Received August 2, 2011.
  • Accepted August 10, 2011.
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