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Keywords:

  • Bufo marinus;
  • cane toad;
  • introduced species;
  • planigale;
  • toxic prey

Abstract

The arrival of a toxic invasive species may impose selection on local predators to avoid consuming it. Feeding responses may be modified via evolutionary changes to behaviour, or via phenotypic plasticity (e.g. learning, taste aversion). The recent arrival of cane toads (Bufo marinus) in the Northern Territory of Australia induced rapid aversion learning in a predatory marsupial (the common planigale, Planigale maculata). Here, we examine the responses of planigales to cane toads in north-eastern Queensland, where they have been sympatric for over 60 years, to investigate whether planigale responses to cane toads have been modified by long-term exposure. Responses to toads were broadly similar to those documented for toad-naïve predators. Most Queensland planigales seized (21 of 22) and partially consumed (11 of 22) the first toad they were offered, but were likely to ignore toads in subsequent trials. However, unlike their toad-naïve conspecifics from the Northern Territory, the Queensland planigales all survived ingestion of toad tissue without overt ill effects and continued to attack toads in a substantial proportion of subsequent trials. Our data suggest that (i) learning by these small predators is sufficiently rapid and effective that selection on behaviour has been weak; and (ii) physiological tolerance to toad toxins may be higher in planigales after 60 years (approximately 60 generations) of exposure to this toxic prey.