Friday, August 29, 2008

On Your Mark, Get Set, TOAD!

The Cane Toad (Bufo Marinus) is a massive terrestrial toad native to Central and Southern America. In 1935 they were introduced to Australia in an attempt to control the native Cane Beetle population which was growing out of control. Initially there were 3000 young toads introduced, but since then they have grown to an astonishing 200 million. Due to their migratory nature they have started to evolve larger legs, larger bodies, and increased their speed of movement.

It is estimated that these toads migrate at an average of 40 km per year. This is making people nervous since they are starting to destroy flora, as well as other species, such as the Northern Quoll and certain snakes. To get an idea of how they are spreading, see the map below:

Recently some researchers have made progress predictions regarding the migration of this explosively breeding species. In the spirit of the recent Olympics, scientists have staged a 2 meter sprint event in a laboratory setting. The Ecography journal reports that Toads could hop as fast as 2km per hour at 30C, but were only able to hop at 0.3 km per hour at 15C.

Previous studies have predicted that southern regions of Australia, including Melbourne, will eventually face the toad invasion. Head researcher Dr. Kearney feels otherwise: "The cane toads cannot survive in much of southern Australia because they would be too cold to move about and forage or spawn." Perhaps these cold temperatures will halt the progress of the toad army after all.

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