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Improve Cane Toad Predators

Metabolic Lamarckianism!
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The cane toad - bane of Queensland, and many other sites where these durable critters have been introduced. These toads are meaty, brazen beasts who make no attempt to escape because they are well protected by their poison. The Australians boast of various horrors perpetrated on the toads in the name of toad control, but thus far their numbers are still increasing (the toads, that is).

I propose that better toad control could be achieved by allowing native australian predators (for example: the quoll) to dine on toads with impunity.

A well-meaning group of foreigners intent on improving Australia would begin a colony of quolls. Small quantities of bufotoxin would be added to the quoll chow. Small baby quolls hanging on to their moms would also begin to develop resistance to the toxin. When these baby quolls let go of the nipple and begin looking for meat, they are initially provided a diet of straight cane toads - initially washed of most toxin, but gradually stronger and stronger until these quolls can feast on full grown toxic toads and laugh about it.

These poisonproof quolls are the released into Australia. Never having eaten anything but toads, and with loads of plump toads in ready supply, they will prosper. Like them, their progeny will have acquired bufotoxin resistance by the time they are ready to go it alone. Eventually, the toad population will be controlled by these native sons and daughters.

This strategy might be used in other contexts (by the same well meaning foreigners) where native predators are in decline, and toxic alien introduced species abound.

bungston, Apr 30 2005

What is a quoll ? http://www.trowunna...au/Quoll%20Yawn.jpg
Say "aahhhhh" [normzone, Apr 30 2005]

Australian monograph on toad control http://www.columbia...m/Bufo_marinus.html
Mosty this is about developing a GMO virus! I can imagine what sort of reception that would get on the HB. It turns out that quolls think they should be able to eat cane toads, and when the toads show up, the quolls die off. We just need to give quolls the power to realize their dream! [bungston, Apr 30 2005]

Bufotoxins http://www.ivis.org...r_frm.asp?LA=1#bufo
[bungston, Apr 30 2005]

Frog Baseball http://www.imdb.com...0104305/plotsummary
Beavis and Butthead's ultimate solution. [jaksplat, May 01 2005]

Cane Toads http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0130529/
If you can get hold of it, see it. [wagster, Jun 21 2006]


       And then we ardently hope that the explosion in the quoll population won't obliterate their natural food source after obliterating the toads . . . ?
contracts, Apr 30 2005

       You're assuming (I think) that resistance to the toxin can be built up by gradual exposure - this is true for some toxins, but not all (don't know about bufotoxin).

Also, I'm not sure how the resistance (if any) would be passed on to the offspring - are you suggesting that small amounts of bufotoxin would pass into the mother's milk, and thereby acclimitize the young? Again, I'm not sure if this would happen or not.

If it were this simple for a native predator to develop a way to gain access to an abundant food supply, chances are it would happen anyway. For instance, some quoll somewhere would have nibbled on baby cane-toads (?) or on rain-washed road- kills or some other partially-detoxified cane-toad flesh, developed a little resistance and taken it from there. Nature generally does the simple things for himself.
Basepair, Apr 30 2005

       I think that with eating very poisonous things, there is a certain "energy of activation" that must be overcome - in this proposal, artificially. To become immune to a toxin, one must have chronic non-lethal exposures. An animal that eats something that makes it feel sick will not eat that thing again. With the toads, a lot of animals die the first time, and ones that don't are not trying toad again. It is unlikely that a young quoll could serially encounter foodstuffs with subtoxic levels of toad venom in the wild that did not make it at least feel sick and develop toadphobia.   

       As for whether one can build immunity to bufotoxin, that will take some research.   

       Nice quoll, [normzone]!
bungston, Apr 30 2005

       //I think that with eating very poisonous things, there is a certain "energy of activation" that must be overcome// Well, that is my question. There are some toxins for which it is possible to build up a resistance, and some for which it is not, and this is kind of fundamental to the cane-toad business. And I'm still not sure about "transmissible" resistance.

Have animals in the cane-toad's original environment developed a way around its toxicity? (They have presumably had several million years in which to do so.)
Basepair, Apr 30 2005

       Digitalis is a cardiac glycoside, and so should be metabolized the safe was as bufotoxin. The qquestion: do people taking high doses of digitalis become accustomed to its effects? My preliminary search shows that iti is possible to alter the metabolism of digitalis with other drugs (usually this inhibits metabolism and the person winds up with too much digitalis in the blood).   

       Maybe there is a baking doctor or pharmacist who knows this answer off the top of his or her head, or where to find it. In the meantime I will keep looking.
bungston, May 01 2005

       Quolls look a lot like possum. Do they taste similar?
reensure, May 01 2005

       Bufotoxin is actually a collection of compounds (including the one you refer to). But if I were a cane-toad with not much else to do, I'd have spent the last few million years evolving a toxin system that couldn't be acclimatised to.

As a related question, what preys on quolls? And (**if** this whole idea worked), would the quolls become inedible by virtue of the bufotoxin sloshing around in their bloodstream? You might find that superquolls become the new plague.
Basepair, May 01 2005

       //But if I were a cane-toad with not much else to do, I'd have spent the last few million years evolving a toxin system that couldn't be acclimatised to.//

Whoa! Your Darwinism is peeking out from beneath your Lamarckism! And it's causing me mental anguish!
lintkeeper2, May 02 2005

       I notice in one of the links that dragonfly larvae take quite a toll on toad tadpoles.
Could native dragonfly populations be given optimum conditions with temporarily species saturation as a goal towards the end of severely reducing cane toad's tadpoles?
I do notice elsewhere that dragonfly larvae will eat ANYTHING smaller than they are, so it may not be the best solution. I suppose that the toads when adult will eat the dragonflys mis-balancing the solution.
Zimmy, May 02 2005

       I've heard that the crows of Queensland have learned to flip little toads on their backs and peck their guts out, thereby avoiding the back-mounted poison glands - but is that just a rumour?
pertinax, Jun 21 2006

       I wouldn't put it past a crow.
normzone, Jun 21 2006

       The only good toad is a dead toad.   

Custardguts, Jun 21 2006

       A toad deserves as much love as any other animal - Toads are the new dolphins and can cure any illness in those who swim with them every day with open mouths.
xenzag, Jun 21 2006


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