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Fatal attraction: adaptations to prey on native frogs imperil snakes after invasion of toxic toads.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology, Ethology. (Mattias Hagman)
2009 (English)In: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Biological Sciences, ISSN 0962-8452, E-ISSN 1471-2954, Vol. 276, 2813-2818 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Adaptations that enhance fitness in one situation can become liabilities if circumstances change. In tropical Australia, native snake species are vulnerable to the invasion of toxic cane toads. Death adders (Acanthophis praelongus) are ambush foragers that (i) attract vertebrate prey by caudal luring and (ii) handle anuran prey by killing the frog then waiting until the frog's chemical defences degrade before ingesting it. These tactics render death adders vulnerable to toxic cane toads (Bufo marinus), because toads elicit caudal luring more effectively than do native frogs, and are more readily attracted to the lure. Moreover, the strategy of delaying ingestion of a toad after the strike does not prevent fatal poisoning, because toad toxins (unlike those of native frogs) do not degrade shortly after the prey dies. In our laboratory and field trials, half of the death adders died after ingesting a toad, showing that the specialized predatory behaviours death adders use to capture and process prey render them vulnerable to this novel prey type. The toads' strong response to caudal luring also renders them less fit than native anurans (which largely ignored the lure): all toads bitten by adders died. Together, these results illustrate the dissonance in behavioural adaptations that can arise following the arrival of invasive species, and reveal the strong selection that occurs when mutually naive species first interact.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. Vol. 276, 2813-2818 p.
Keyword [en]
Acanthophis praelongusambush predatorBufo marinusElapidaeforaging modeinvasive species
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Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-36834ISI: 000267373700016OAI: diva2:290537
Available from: 2010-01-27 Created: 2010-01-27 Last updated: 2011-04-05Bibliographically approved

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