The thermal dependency of locomotor performance evolves rapidly within an invasive species.
ABSTRACT: Biological invasions can stimulate rapid shifts in organismal performance, via both plasticity and adaptation. We can distinguish between these two proximate mechanisms by rearing offspring from populations under identical conditions and measuring their locomotor abilities in standardized trials. We collected adult cane toads (Rhinella marina) from invasive populations that inhabit regions of Australia with different climatic conditions. We bred those toads and raised their offspring under common-garden conditions before testing their locomotor performance. At high (but not low) temperatures, offspring of individuals from a hotter location (northwestern Australia) outperformed offspring of conspecifics from a cooler location (northeastern Australia). This disparity indicates that, within less than 100 years, thermal performance in cane toads has adapted to the novel abiotic challenges that cane toads have encountered during their invasion of tropical Australia.
Project description:Invasive species provide a robust opportunity to evaluate how animals deal with novel environmental challenges. Shifts in locomotor performance-and thus the ability to disperse-(and especially, the degree to which it is constrained by thermal and hydric extremes) are of special importance, because they might affect the rate that an invader can spread. We studied cane toads (Rhinella marina) across a broad geographical range: two populations within the species' native range in Brazil, two invasive populations on the island of Hawai'i and eight invasive populations encompassing the eastern, western and southern limits of the toad invasion in Australia. A toad's locomotor performance on a circular raceway was strongly affected by both its temperature and its hydration state, but the nature and magnitude of those constraints differed across populations. In their native range, cane toads exhibited relatively low performance (even under optimal test conditions) and a rapid decrease in performance at lower temperatures and hydration levels. At the other extreme, performance was high in toads from southern Australia, and virtually unaffected by desiccation. Hawai'ian toads broadly resembled their Brazilian conspecifics, plausibly reflecting similar climatic conditions. The invasion of Australia has been accompanied by a dramatic enhancement in the toads' locomotor abilities, and (in some populations) by an ability to maintain locomotor performance even when the animal is cold and/or dehydrated. The geographical divergences in performance among cane toad populations graphically attest to the adaptability of invasive species in the face of novel abiotic challenges.
Project description:As is common in biological invasions, the rate at which cane toads (<i>Rhinella marina</i>) have spread across tropical Australia has accelerated through time. Individuals at the invasion front travel further than range-core conspecifics and exhibit distinctive morphologies that may facilitate rapid dispersal. However, the links between these morphological changes and locomotor performance have not been clearly documented. We used raceway trials and high-speed videography to document locomotor traits (e.g. hop distances, heights, velocities, and angles of take-off and landing) of toads from range-core and invasion-front populations. Locomotor performance varied geographically, and this variation in performance was linked to morphological features that have evolved during the toads' Australian invasion. Geographical variation in morphology and locomotor ability was evident not only in wild-caught animals, but also in individuals that had been raised under standardized conditions in captivity. Our data thus support the hypothesis that the cane toad's invasion across Australia has generated rapid evolutionary shifts in dispersal-relevant performance traits, and that these differences in performance are linked to concurrent shifts in morphological traits.
Project description:Invasive species often exhibit rapid evolutionary changes, and can provide powerful insights into the selective forces shaping phenotypic traits that influence dispersal rates and/or sexual interactions. Invasions also may modify sexual dimorphism. We measured relative lengths of forelimbs and hindlimbs of more than 3000 field-caught adult cane toads (Rhinella marina) from 67 sites in Hawai'i and Australia (1-80 years post-colonization), along with 489 captive-bred individuals from multiple Australian sites raised in a 'common garden' (to examine heritability and reduce environmental influences on morphology). As cane toads spread from east to west across Australia, the ancestral condition (long limbs, especially in males) was modified. Limb length relative to body size was first reduced (perhaps owing to natural selection on locomotor ability), but then increased again (perhaps owing to spatial sorting) in the invasion vanguard. In contrast, the sex disparity in relative limb length has progressively decreased during the toads' Australian invasion. Offspring reared in a common environment exhibited similar geographical divergences in morphology as did wild-caught animals, suggesting a genetic basis to the changes. Limb dimensions showed significant heritability (2-17%), consistent with the possibility of an evolved response. Cane toad populations thus have undergone a major shift in sexual dimorphism in relative limb lengths during their brief (81 years) spread through tropical Australia.
Project description:Temperature has pervasive effects on physiological processes and is critical in setting species distribution limits. Since invading Australia, cane toads have spread rapidly across low latitudes, but slowly into higher latitudes. Low temperature is the likely factor limiting high-latitude advancement. Several previous attempts have been made to predict future cane toad distributions in Australia, but understanding the potential contribution of phenotypic plasticity and adaptation to future range expansion remains challenging. Previous research demonstrates the considerable thermal metabolic plasticity of the cane toad, but suggests limited thermal plasticity of locomotor performance. Additionally, the oxygen-limited thermal tolerance hypothesis predicts that reduced aerobic scope sets thermal limits for ectotherm performance. Metabolic plasticity, locomotor performance and aerobic scope are therefore predicted targets of natural selection as cane toads invade colder regions. We measured these traits at temperatures of 10, 15, 22.5 and 30°C in low- and high-latitude toads acclimated to 15 and 30°C, to test the hypothesis that cane toads have adapted to cooler temperatures. High-latitude toads show increased metabolic plasticity and higher resting metabolic rates at lower temperatures. Burst locomotor performance was worse for high-latitude toads. Other traits showed no regional differences. We conclude that increased metabolic plasticity may facilitate invasion into higher latitudes by maintaining critical physiological functions at lower temperatures.
Project description:Biological invasions can induce rapid evolutionary change. As cane toads (Rhinella marina) have spread across tropical Australia over an 80-year period, their rate of invasion has increased from around 15 to 60 km per annum. Toads at the invasion front disperse much faster and further than conspecifics from range-core areas, and their offspring inherit that rapid dispersal rate. We investigated morphological changes that have accompanied this dramatic acceleration, by conducting three-dimensional morphometric analyses of toads from both range-core and invasion-front populations. Morphology of heads, limbs, pectoral girdles and pelvic girdles differed significantly between toads from the two areas, ranging from 0.5% to 16.5% difference in mean bone dimensions between populations, with invasion-front toads exhibiting wider forelimbs, narrower hindlimbs and more compact skulls. Those changes plausibly reflect an increased reliance on bounding (multiple short hops in quick succession) rather than separate large leaps. Within an 80-year period, invasive cane toads have converted the basic anuran body plan - which evolved for occasional large leaps to evade predators - into a morphotype better-suited to sustained long-distance travel.
Project description:Individuals at the leading edge of expanding biological invasions often show distinctive phenotypic traits, in ways that enhance their ability to disperse rapidly and to function effectively in novel environments. Cane toads (Rhinella marina) at the invasion front in Australia exhibit shifts in morphology, physiology and behaviour (directionality of dispersal, boldness, risk-taking). We took a common-garden approach, raising toads from range-core and range-edge populations in captivity, to see if the behavioural divergences observed in wild-caught toads are also evident in common-garden offspring. Captive-raised toads from the invasion vanguard population were more exploratory and bolder (more prone to 'risky' behaviours) than toads from the range core, which suggests that these are evolved, genetic traits. Our study highlights the importance of behaviour as being potentially adaptive in invasive populations and adds these behavioural traits to the increasing list of phenotypic traits that have evolved rapidly during the toads' 80-year spread through tropical Australia.
Project description:Commonly, invaders have different impacts in different places. The spread of cane toads (Rhinella marina: Bufonidae) has been devastating for native fauna in tropical Australia, but the toads' impact remains unstudied in temperate-zone Australia. We surveyed habitat characteristics and fauna in campgrounds along the central eastern coast of Australia, in eight sites that have been colonized by cane toads and another eight that have not. The presence of cane toads was associated with lower faunal abundance and species richness, and a difference in species composition. Populations of three species of large lizards (land mullets Bellatorias major, eastern water dragons Intellagama lesueurii, and lace monitors Varanus varius) and a snake (red-bellied blacksnake Pseudechis porphyriacus) were lower (by 84 to 100%) in areas with toads. The scarcity of scavenging lace monitors in toad-invaded areas translated into a 52% decrease in rates of carrion removal (based on camera traps at bait stations) and an increase (by 61%) in numbers of brush turkeys (Alectura lathami). The invasion of cane toads through temperate-zone Australia appears to have reduced populations of at least four anurophagous predators, facilitated other taxa, and decreased rates of scavenging. Our data identify a paradox: The impacts of cane toads are at least as devastating in southern Australia as in the tropics, yet we know far more about toad invasion in the sparsely populated wilderness areas of tropical Australia than in the densely populated southeastern seaboard.
Project description:In Australia, large native predators are fatally poisoned when they ingest invasive cane toads (Rhinella marina). As a result, the spread of cane toads has caused catastrophic population declines in these predators. Immediately prior to the arrival of toads at a floodplain in the Kimberley region, we induced conditioned taste aversion in free-ranging varanid lizards (Varanus panoptes), by offering them small cane toads. By the end of the 18-month study, only one of 31 untrained lizards had survived longer than 110 days, compared to more than half (nine of 16) of trained lizards; the maximum known survival of a trained lizard in the presence of toads was 482 days. In situ aversion training (releasing small toads in advance of the main invasion front) offers a logistically simple and feasible way to buffer the impact of invasive toads on apex predators.
Project description:Understanding negative effects of native species on introduced taxa may suggest novel ways to control the invasive species by enhancing such effects. Previous studies have reported that the larvae of invasive cane toads (Rhinella marina) are suppressed by competition with the larvae of native anurans in Australia, but not in North America. We conducted laboratory trials to measure the effect of exposure to the larvae of Japanese frogs (Microhyla ornata, Fejervarya sakishimensis, Rhacophorus owstoni) on rates of survival, growth and development of cane toad tadpoles in Ishigaki Island, in southern Japan. Survival rates were not affected by native species, but competition with Dicroglossids and Rhacophorids (but not Microhylids) strongly reduced rates of growth and development in the tadpoles of cane toads. Dicroglossid tadpoles also reduced the body condition to toad tadpoles in addition to effects on SVL and mass. Encouraging populations of native frogs in toad-invaded areas of Japan thus may help to reduce the numbers of invasive cane toads.
Project description:Initial research on the spread of cane toads (Rhinella marina) through tropical Australia reported a high incidence of spinal arthritis (spondylosis) in toads at the invasion front (where toads disperse rapidly), but not in areas colonized earlier (where toads are more sedentary). The idea that spondylosis was a cost of rapid dispersal was challenged by wider spatial sampling which linked rates of spondylosis to hot (tropical) climates rather than to dispersal rates. Here, the authors of these competing interpretations collaborate to reinterpret the data. Our reanalysis supports both previous hypotheses; rates of spondylosis are higher in populations established by fast-dispersing toads, and are higher in tropical than in temperate environments; they are also higher in larger toads. The functional reason for climatic effects is unclear, but might involve effects on the soil-living bacteria involved in the induction of spondylosis; and/or may reflect higher movement (as opposed to dispersal) or more pronounced dry-season aggregation rates of toads in tropical conditions.