Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Tolerate Thy Neighbour

cane toad

While adult cane toads are poisonous to terrestrial animals, their eggs and tadpoles are just as lethal to aquatic species. Credit: brian.gratwicke

By Georgina Caller

Cane toads have been wiping out native species, but one fish species has learnt to avoid toxic toadpoles.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

For as long as humans have been moving around the world they have been taking other species with them. We have moved hundreds of thousands of vertebrates, invertebrate and microorganisms from the places they naturally evolved to new environments.

The majority of these introduced species die off after a few generations or settle into small contained populations that aren’t disruptive to their new environments. Unfortunately, a small proportion of introduced species will rapidly dominate their new environment, often wiping out any unfortunate native species they happen to compete with or prey upon. The results are dire: invasive species have a hand in 40% of all modern extinctions, with more occurring every year.

Australia has been hit particularly hard by invasive species. Due to its isolation and unique flora and fauna, invasive species often present Australia’s native organisms with threats they have never faced before. Cats and foxes have devastated populations of small native animals, and native vegetation is struggling with the introduction of hard-footed species such as cattle and horses.

However, our studies of the freshwater crimson-spotted rainbowfish have given us confidence in the capacity of native species to survive. We have found that these little fish can adapt their behaviour to the scourge of the cane toad and other potentially...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.