Desert cane toads no longer nocturnal

From ABC News in Science, 26 February 2014:

Once creatures of the night, cane toads are now becoming active during the day to adapt as they move into semi-arid regions of Australia.

Australian researchers used acoustic tags normally used to track fish movements and discovered that cane toads were accessing a dam during daylight hours, seeking relief from the extreme heat and dryness.

The results are published today in the Royal Society’s journal Biology Letters.

Lead author Dr Jonathan Webb says the group was working around 150 kilometres from the edge of the Tanami Desert, investigating a local method of eradicating cane toads when they made the discovery.

“Community groups were saying that if you fenced off the artificial dams that farmers use for livestock you could eradicate toads, so we started trialling that and discovered you could eradicate cane toads from these areas if you excluded their access to water,” says Webb, a wildlife ecologist at the School of the Environment, University of Technology, Sydney .

Curious about how toads were surviving in such dry conditions, researchers attached acoustic tags to twenty toads and placed an underwater listening station in the dam to monitor the toads’ access to the water.

The tags revealed that the toads were visiting the dam more often during the day than at night.

“We were really surprised because adult cane toads are nocturnal in their native range and in places like Darwin and Queensland you don’t see adult toads jumping around in the day time – they come out at night and visit water bodies to rehydrate,” says Webb. Read more.

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