Behavioural flexibility allows an invasive vertebrate to survive in a semi-arid environment

Webb, Jonathan K., Letnic, Mike, Jessop, Tim S. and Dempster, Tim 2014, Behavioural flexibility allows an invasive vertebrate to survive in a semi-arid environment, Biology letters, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 1-4, doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2013.1014.

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Title Behavioural flexibility allows an invasive vertebrate to survive in a semi-arid environment
Author(s) Webb, Jonathan K.
Letnic, Mike
Jessop, Tim S.ORCID iD for Jessop, Tim S.
Dempster, Tim
Journal name Biology letters
Volume number 10
Issue number 2
Start page 1
End page 4
Total pages 4
Publisher Royal Society Publishing
Place of publication London, Eng.
Publication date 2014
ISSN 1744-957X
Keyword(s) Rhinella marina
cane toad
invasive species
temporal niche shift
Summary Plasticity or evolution in behavioural responses are key attributes of successful animal invasions. In northern Australia, the invasive cane toad (Rhinella marina) recently invaded semi-arid regions. Here, cane toads endure repeated daily bouts of severe desiccation and thermal stress during the long dry season (April-October). We investigated whether cane toads have shifted their ancestral nocturnal rehydration behaviour to one that exploits water resources during the day. Such a shift in hydration behaviour could increase the fitness of individual toads by reducing exposure to desiccation and thermal stress suffered during the day even within terrestrial shelters. We used a novel method (acoustic tags) to monitor the daily hydration behaviour of 20 toads at two artificial reservoirs on Camfield station, Northern Territory. Remarkably, cane toads visited reservoirs to rehydrate during daylight hours, with peaks in activity between 9.00 and 17.00. This diurnal pattern of rehydration activity contrasts with nocturnal rehydration behaviour exhibited by adult toads in their native geographical range and more mesic parts of Australia. Our results demonstrate that cane toads phase shift a key behaviour to survive in a harsh semi-arid landscape. Behavioural phase shifts have rarely been reported in invasive species but could facilitate ongoing invasion success.
Language eng
DOI 10.1098/rsbl.2013.1014
Field of Research 060603 Animal Physiology - Systems
060801 Animal Behaviour
06 Biological Sciences
Socio Economic Objective 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences
HERDC Research category C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
ERA Research output type C Journal article
Copyright notice ©2014, Royal Society Publishing
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