Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Lots of cane toad (Bufo marinus) news this month:
- Preparation-T - Want to make those cane toads easier to catch? The Interested-Participant blog notes that you can just apply a little hemorrhoid cream to their backs, and they'll go right to sleep. Seriously. No, seriously!
- Toad Juice - The Sydney Morning Herald reports that a new cane toad-based fertilizer is now being tested. The environmental group FrogWatch had to stockpile toad carcasses to get enough for the first fertilizer batch, but if the product is successful it will be an excellent option for disposing of the bodies following any large-scale eradication program.
- Long-legged Toads, you make my rockin' world go round! - In a recent study published in the journal Nature, scientists revealed that conditions in Australia may be leading to the rapid evolution of longer-legged cane toads. Toads with longer legs move faster and further than their short-legged counterparts, meaning that they are typically the first to arrive in new, toad-free territory. This has led to such a success in establishment that the cane toads of today are five times faster and have 25% longer legs than toads from sixty years ago [via news @ nature.com]. Hey, you'd run faster too if someone was trying to wipe hemorrhoid cream on your back!
What that Nature paper doesn't say is as important as what it does. Namely that toads were moving through a completely different habitat 60 years ago, and now that they're in northern NT, where it's flat and warm and fairly wet, they're steaming along. There's no equivalent stormtrooper front at the southern limit of their range.
The longer-legged thing is very interesting, but the "coming to get us" spin is frankly quite ridiculous. Sometimes I wonder about Nature...
Thank you Chris, for adding some very interesting details to the story.
This is just one of several reports that have appeared in the news in recent months with the "We welcome our new *insert organism here* overlords" angle...see for example the Chinese mitten crab story from last week. I can only assume the press releases are written in this way with the goal of garnering media attention (and it certainly has been working lately). I fear these alarmist pieces are eventually going to desensitize the general public.
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