Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Cane Toads Make Long-Distance Calls for Love

Scientists have discovered that cane toads make mating calls that carry many times further than other frogs and toads. “This means they are heard by more individuals and can bring in more mates to breed with than some other species,” said Mr Benjamin Muller of James Cook University.

While most frog and toad species only respond to mating calls made a few metres away, the researchers found that male cane toads respond to calls made up to 120 metres away.

“Also surprising was the fact that male toads respond strongly, and from far away, to mating calls from other males – probably because they signal the presence of water and, eventually, the presence of females they can mate with.”

However, female cane toads are more picky. “Female cane toads become uninterested more than 70 metres from the source of the mating call,” Muller said, “probably because they need to hear complex information in the call, such as the size, energy levels and health of potential mates, and from far away those details are difficult to discern”.

The team is carrying out the study to try to eradicate the invasive pest. The latest findings, published in Behaviour (http://tinyurl.com/zddvya5), will enable more effective use of traps that use recorded mating calls as a lure.

“Now we know from how far we can attract the toads we can space the traps for maximum effect,” Muller said. “It will mean a more efficient set-up and less wasted effort.”