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2.5 The toad that came to stay — cane toads

<p>A cane toad in Litchfield National Park, Northern Territory</p>

Matt Clancy Wildlife Photography

<p>A cane toad in Litchfield National Park, Northern Territory</p>

In 1788 the ships of the First Fleet brought many things that created environmental problems in Australia. These included cats, cows and prickly pear.

One problem that was brought to Australia much later than these is the cane toad. Cane toads have had, and continue to have, a huge impact on Australian landscapes.

Read the Defining Moment in Australian history 1935 Unstoppable, devastating pests — Cane toads introduced and answer the questions below. 

Sugar cane is a plant that grows in hot and wet climates, especially in the north-east of Australia.

A sugarcane field

TigerStocks/Shutterstock.com

A sugarcane field

Look at this map showing the location of most of the sugar cane crops in Australia:

<p>Map of the Australian sugar industry</p>

Adapted from: Canegrowers Association

<p>Map of the Australian sugar industry</p>

5. Which of the things listed below did planting sugar cane help create or develop? (There could be more than one.)

A native beetle thrived on the sugar cane, damaging the crops.

To overcome this problem, scientists introduced the cane toad as a natural predator of the cane beetle.

What is a cane toad?

<p>Cane toad, Springbrook National Park, Queensland</p>

Photo: Froggydarb, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

<p>Cane toad, Springbrook National Park, Queensland</p>

The cane toad is an amphibian that is native to South and Central America.

A fully grown cane toad is about 9–15 centimetres long and has dry, warty skin that may be grey, yellowish or reddish brown. It has a bony ridge from its eyes to its nose, leathery webbing between its back toes, no webbing on its front toes and large glands on each shoulder.

It is poisonous if eaten by native predators such as snakes, lizards, goannas and quolls.


Here is a map showing the distribution of cane toads by 2008, and the areas where scientists expect the toads could spread to.

<p>The distribution of cane toads in Australia</p>

Source: Kearney, M, Phillips, BL, Tracy, CR, Christian, KA, Betts, G & Porter, WP 2008, ‘Modelling species distributions without using species distributions: the cane toad in Australia under current and future climates', Ecography, vol. 31, pp.423-434

<p>The distribution of cane toads in Australia</p>

Here is a cartoon showing two introduced species in Australia, one of which has proven to be useful, and the other destructive.

Illustration of a dung beetle and a cane toad, Wolfe Gleitsman

2newthings.com

Illustration of a dung beetle and a cane toad, Wolfe Gleitsman


Conclusion

19. What does this case study help you understand about the way landscapes have been managed over time in Australia?

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