Friday, January 31, 2014
Cane toads adapt rapidly to cool temperatures and are invading high elevation in New South Wales
In northeastern New South Wales, cane toads have been recorded up to 1100 m above sea level (asl). The authors monitored the toad over the summer 2012 -2013 and confirmed that ground temperatures were lower at three high-elevation (750 to 1010 m asl) sites than at two nearby lower (100 to 210 m asl) sites. During the day 18 vs 25°C; and at night, 17 to 18 °C vs 20 to 25°C respectively.
Critical thermal minima (CTmins) of field-collected toads (loss of the righting reflex) were lower for high-elevation than low-elevation toads (5.5 vs 7.5°C), but laboratory acclimation erased this difference. A toad's CTmin was not affected by site of collection, nor by one month's exposure to warm (24°C) or cool (12°C) conditions; instead, a toad's CTmin was determined by its thermal exposure over the previous 12 h. Locomotor ability was affected by test temperature, by elevation, and by acclimation. Toads from high elevations exhibited equal endurance at cold and warm test temperatures after month-long acclimation to cold conditions, whereas toads from low elevations performed better at high temperatures regardless of previous temperature treatments.
Cane toads at the southern edge of their expanding Australian range can function under cool conditions by adjusting their thermal tolerance within a few hours of encountering low temperatures.
The toads’ ability for rapid thermal acclimation suggests that current models underestimate the potential range of abiotic conditions accessible to this invasive species.
McCann S, Greenlees MJ, Newell D, Shine R. 2014. Rapid acclimation to cold allows the cane toad to invade montane areas within its Australian range. Functional Ecology DOI: 10.1111/1365-2435.12255