The ecological impact of invasive cane toads on tropical snakes: field data do not support laboratory-based predictions

Brown, Gregory P., Phillips, Benjamin L., and Shine, Richard (2011) The ecological impact of invasive cane toads on tropical snakes: field data do not support laboratory-based predictions. Ecology, 92 (2). pp. 422-431.

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Abstract

Predicting which species will be affected by an invasive taxon is critical to developing conservation priorities, but this is a difficult task. A previous study on the impact of invasive cane toads (Bufo marinus) on Australian snakes attempted to predict vulnerability a priori based on the assumptions that any snake species that eats frogs, and is vulnerable to toad toxins, may be at risk from the toad invasion. We used time-series analyses to evaluate the accuracy of that prediction, based on >3600 standardized nocturnal surveys over a 138-month period on 12 species of snakes and lizards on a floodplain in the Australian wet-dry tropics, bracketing the arrival of cane toads at this site. Contrary to prediction, encounter rates with most species were unaffected by toad arrival, and some taxa predicted to be vulnerable to toads increased rather than declined (e.g., death adder Acanthophis praelongus; Children's python Antaresia childreni). Indirect positive effects of toad invasion (perhaps mediated by toad-induced mortality of predatory varanid lizards) and stochastic weather events outweighed effects of toad invasion for most snake species. Our study casts doubt on the ability of a priori desktop studies, or short-term field surveys, to predict or document the ecological impact of invasive species.

Item ID: 18536
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: alien species; Australia; biological invasion; Bufo marinus; bufotoxins; cane toad; predator–prey; Rhinella marina; time-series analysis; tropical snakes
ISSN: 1939-9170
Date Deposited: 29 Sep 2011 07:05
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060202 Community Ecology (excl Invasive Species Ecology) @ 50%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050103 Invasive Species Ecology @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960805 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity at Regional or Larger Scales @ 100%
Citation Count from Web of Science Web of Science 2
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