Movement and Physiology of Invasion Front Cane Toads (Rhinella marina) in Central Florida

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Florida Southern College
In Australia and Florida, cane toads (Rhinella marina) are an invasive species that have wreaked havoc on local ecosystems. Native to South and Central America, these toads secrete a toxin harmful to both fauna and humans, strongly impacting Florida wildlife. Previous studies in Australia have established that actively invading toads change morphologically to have longer limbs, greater speed, and greater endurance compared to those that remain established in a single population. However, our research in central Florida suggests that the opposite may be occurring at this invasion site. Our experimental studies on toads suggest that those at Florida invasion fronts have shorter limbs, lower muscle mass, and less endurance. In addition, surveys evaluating the movement of the invasion itself were taken over 6 years to follow the path of travel and establish mean migration across the state. Contrary to the rapid expansion in all directions seen in Australia, our invasion appears to follow human development such as roadways eastward from Tampa, Florida at a slow and steady pace. Additional research is required to establish a mechanism creating the discrepancies between the two populations of invasion and established toads in both Florida and Australia. Establishing the differences between the two groups can give key insight into the management strategy of this invasive species and help preserve the health of Florida's ecosystem.
Honors Thesis Spring 2021
Bufo marinus, Toads, Introduced organisms