The extra-limital spread of an invasive species via ‘stowaway’ dispersal: toad to nowhere?

Authors


Correspondence
Richard Shine, School of Biological Sciences A08, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia. Tel: +612 9351 3772; Fax: +612 9351 5609
Email: rics@bio.usyd.edu.au

Abstract

The mechanisms by which invasive species spread through new areas can influence the spatial scale of their impact. Although previous research has focused on ‘natural’ dispersal rates following initial introductions, human-aided inadvertent dispersal by ‘stowaways’ on commercial and domestic transport is thought to be a major contributor to long-distance dispersal. Few data exist to support this assumption. Cane toads Bufo marinus were introduced to north-eastern Australia in 1935, and have since dispersed rapidly through the tropics. Based on information accumulated by community groups in Sydney, 400 km south of the cane toads' current Australian distribution, we document high rates of translocation (at least 50 toads arriving in Sydney per year). Most toads were translocated on commercial truck transport carrying landscaping and building materials from the current range of the cane toads in New South Wales and Queensland, and resulted in highly clumped locations of toad arrival reflecting primary truck transport destinations. Most introductions involved single toads (68 of 102 translocation events), but some introductions involved two to 19 animals. Adults of both sexes were represented equally but juveniles were rarely detected. High rates of translocation of adult toads of both sexes suggest that the eventual distribution of cane toads in Australia may be limited by the animals' bioclimatic tolerances rather than by an inability to reach suitable habitats, even in areas far distant from the toads' current range.

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