A cane toad plots how to take over the world

June 28, 2014, 1 p.m.

This toad may look harmless, and in its native habitats of Central and South America it's an important member. But the cane toad has come to be a much hated invasive species in many parts of the world. The reason is because this species of toad is an impressively prolific breeder, a voracious eater (of both live and scavenged food), extremely adaptable, and is highly toxic both as a tadpole and as an adult. This all spells success for the species, and disaster for many others in the habitats where it has been introduced. In an effort to use the species as natural agricultural pest control, cane toads were introduced to other areas of the Pacific and to Caribbean islands, where they did what they do best — reproduced like crazy and ate everything in sight, including native species that humans didn’t intend for it to eat. It is now considered a pest in many countries, and conservationists are still struggling with ideas for how to eradicate it from non-native habitats where it threatens biodiversity.

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