At the invasion front, male cane toads (Rhinella marina) have smaller testes.
ABSTRACT: As a colonizing species expands its range, individuals at the invasion front experience different evolutionary pressures than do those at the range-core. For example, low densities at the edge of the range mean that males should rarely experience intense sperm competition from rivals; and investment into reproduction may trade-off with adaptations for more rapid dispersal. Both of these processes are predicted to favour a reduction in testis size at the invasion front. To explore effects of invasion stage in Australian cane toads (Rhinella marina), we collected and dissected 214 adult males from three regions: one in the species' range-core (northeastern Australia), and two from invasion fronts (one in northwestern Australia and one in southeastern Australia). Despite the brief duration of separation between toads in these areas (approx. 85 years), testis masses averaged greater than 30% higher (as a proportion of body mass) in range-core males than in conspecifics sampled from either vanguard of the invasion. Previous work has documented low reproductive frequencies in female cane toads at the invasion front also, consistent with the hypothesis that evolutionary and ecological pressures unleashed by an invasion can favour relatively low resource allocation to reproduction in both sexes.
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: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:As a population expands into novel areas (as occurs in biological invasions), the range edge becomes dominated by rapidly dispersing individuals-thereby accelerating the rate of population spread. That acceleration has been attributed to evolutionary processes (natural selection and spatial sorting), to which we add a third complementary process: behavioural plasticity. Encountering environmental novelty may directly elicit an increased rate of dispersal. When we reciprocally translocated cane toads (Rhinella marina) among study sites in southern Australia, the transported animals massively increased dispersal rates relative to residents (to an extent similar to the evolved increase between range-core versus invasion-front toad populations in Australia). The responses of these translocated toads show that even range-core toads are capable of the long-distance dispersal rates of invasion-front conspecifics and suggest that rapid dispersal (rather than evolving de novo) has simply been expanded from facultative to constitutive expression.
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:The cane toad (<i>Rhinella marina</i>) has undergone rapid evolution during its invasion of tropical Australia. Toads from invasion front populations (in Western Australia) have been reported to exhibit a stronger baseline phagocytic immune response than do conspecifics from range core populations (in Queensland). To explore this difference, we injected wild-caught toads from both areas with the experimental antigen lipopolysaccharide (LPS, to mimic bacterial infection) and measured whole-blood phagocytosis. Because the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is stimulated by infection (and may influence immune responses), we measured glucocorticoid response through urinary corticosterone levels. Relative to injection of a control (phosphate-buffered saline), LPS injection increased both phagocytosis and the proportion of neutrophils in the blood. However, responses were similar in toads from both populations. This null result may reflect the ubiquity of bacterial risks across the toad's invaded range; utilization of this immune pathway may not have altered during the process of invasion. LPS injection also induced a reduction in urinary corticosterone levels, perhaps as a result of chronic stress.
Project description:Dispersal biology at an invasion front differs from that of populations within the range core, because novel evolutionary and ecological processes come into play in the nonequilibrium conditions at expanding range edges. In a world where species' range limits are changing rapidly, we need to understand how individuals disperse at an invasion front. We analyzed an extensive dataset from radio-tracking invasive cane toads (Rhinella marina) over the first 8 y since they arrived at a site in tropical Australia. Movement patterns of toads in the invasion vanguard differed from those of individuals in the same area postcolonization. Our model discriminated encamped versus dispersive phases within each toad's movements and demonstrated that pioneer toads spent longer periods in dispersive mode and displayed longer, more directed movements while they were in dispersive mode. These analyses predict that overall displacement per year is more than twice as far for toads at the invasion front compared with those tracked a few years later at the same site. Studies on established populations (or even those a few years postestablishment) thus may massively underestimate dispersal rates at the leading edge of an expanding population. This, in turn, will cause us to underpredict the rates at which invasive organisms move into new territory and at which native taxa can expand into newly available habitat under climate change.
Project description:Invasive species must deal with novel challenges, both from the alien environment and from pressures arising from range expansion per se (e.g. spatial sorting). Those conditions can create geographical variation in behaviour across the invaded range, as has been documented across regions of Australia invaded by cane toads; range-edge toads are more exploratory and willing to take risks than are conspecifics from the range-core. That behavioural divergence might be a response to range expansion and invasion per se, or to the different environments encountered. Climate differs across the cane toads' invasion range from the wet tropics of Queensland to the seasonally dry climates of northwestern Western Australia. The different thermal and hydric regimes may affect behavioural traits via phenotypic plasticity or through natural selection. We cannot tease apart the effects of range expansion versus climate in an expanding population but can do so in a site where the colonizing species was simultaneously released in all suitable areas, thus removing any subsequent phase of range expansion. Cane toads were introduced to Hawai'i in 1932; and thence to Australia in 1935. Toads were released in all major sugarcane-growing areas in Hawai'i within a 12-month period. Hence, Hawai'ian cane toads provide an opportunity to examine geographical divergence in behavioural traits in a climatically diverse region (each island has both wet and dry sides) in the absence of range expansion subsequent to release. We conducted laboratory-based behavioural trials testing exploration, risk-taking and response to novelty using field-caught toads from the wet and dry sides of two Hawai'ian islands (Oahu and Hawai'i). Toads from the dry side of Oahu had a higher propensity to take risks than did toads from the dry side of Hawai'i. Toads from Oahu were also more exploratory than were conspecifics from the island of Hawai'i. However, toads from wet versus dry climates were similar in all behaviours that we scored, suggesting that founder effects, genetic drift, or developmentally plastic responses to ecological factors other than climate may have driven behavioural divergence between islands.
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:Cane toads are a notorious invasive species, inhabiting over 1.2 million km2 of Australia and threatening native biodiversity. The release of pathogenic cane toad viruses is one possible biocontrol strategy yet is currently hindered by the poorly described cane toad virome. Metatranscriptomic analysis of 16 cane toad livers revealed the presence of a novel and full-length picornavirus, Rhimavirus A (RhiV-A), a member of a reptile- and amphibian-specific cluster of the Picornaviridae basal to the Kobuvirus-like group. In the combined liver transcriptome, we also identified a complete genome sequence of a distinct epsilonretrovirus, Rhinella marina endogenous retrovirus (RMERV). The recently sequenced cane toad genome contains 8 complete RMERV proviruses as well as 21 additional truncated insertions. The oldest full-length RMERV provirus was estimated to have inserted 1.9 million years ago (MYA). To screen for these viral sequences in additional toads, we analyzed publicly available transcriptomes from six diverse Australian locations. RhiV-A transcripts were identified in toads sampled from three locations across 1,000 km of Australia, stretching to the current Western Australia (WA) invasion front, while RMERV transcripts were observed at all six sites. Finally, we scanned the cane toad genome for nonretroviral endogenous viral elements, finding three sequences related to small DNA viruses in the family Circoviridae This shows ancestral circoviral infection with subsequent genomic integration. The identification of these current and past viral infections enriches our knowledge of the cane toad virome, an understanding of which will facilitate future work on infection and disease in this important invasive species.IMPORTANCE Cane toads are poisonous amphibians that were introduced to Australia in 1935 for insect control. Since then, their population has increased dramatically, and they now threaten many native Australian species. One potential method to control the population is to release a cane toad virus with high mortality rates, yet few cane toad viruses have been characterized. This study samples cane toads from different Australian locations and uses an RNA sequencing and computational approach to find new viruses. We report novel complete picornavirus and retrovirus sequences that were genetically similar to viruses infecting frogs, reptiles, and fish. Using data generated in other studies, we show that these viral sequences are present in cane toads from distinct Australian locations. Three sequences related to circoviruses were also found in the toad genome. The identification of new viral sequences will aid future studies that investigate their prevalence and potential as agents for biocontrol.
Project description:Invasive species threaten biological diversity throughout the world. Understanding the dynamics of their spread is critical to mitigating this threat. In Australia, efforts are underway to control the invasive cane toad (Chaunus [Bufo] marinus). Range models based on their native bioclimatic envelope suggest that the cane toad is nearing the end of its invasion phase. However, such models assume a conserved niche between native and invaded regions and the absence of evolution to novel habitats. Here, we develop a dynamically updated statistical model to predict the growing extent of cane toad range based on their current distribution in Australia. Results demonstrate that Australian cane toads may already have the ability to spread across an area that almost doubles their current range and that triples projections based on their native distribution. Most of the expansion in suitable habitat area has occurred in the last decade and in regions characterized by high temperatures. Increasing use of extreme habitats may indicate that novel ecological conditions have facilitated a broader realized niche or that toad populations at the invasion front have evolved greater tolerance to extreme abiotic conditions. Rapid evolution to novel habitats combined with ecological release from native enemies may explain why some species become highly successful global invaders. Predicting species ranges following invasion or climate change may often require dynamically updated range models that incorporate a broader realization of niches in the absence of natural enemies and evolution in response to novel habitats.