Effects of invasive cane toads on Australian mosquitoes: Does the dark cloud have a silver lining?
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- Hagman, M. & Shine, R. Biol Invasions (2007) 9: 445. doi:10.1007/s10530-006-9051-3
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Research on the ecological impacts of invasive organisms typically looks only for negative impacts, ignoring the possibility that the wider community might see benefits in some of these effects. To truly understand the impact of invasive species, we need to look as broadly as possible, and incorporate studies on a diversity of variables. The spread of the South American cane toad (Bufo marinus) through tropical Australia is widely viewed as an ecological catastrophe, but anecdotal reports suggest that the invasion of toads may reduce the numbers of mosquitoes (and thus, potentially, the risk they pose to human health). We conducted experiments to determine whether the presence of toad tadpoles affects survival rates, adult body sizes and/or rates of oviposition of four species of disease-carrying mosquitoes. In the laboratory, the presence of toad tadpoles significantly reduced the sizes of adult mosquitoes at emergence, and also reduced survival rates of the larvae of one mosquito species. In field trials, mosquitoes were less likely to oviposit in waterbodies containing toad tadpoles. Accordingly, these data suggest (but do not prove) that toad invasion may reduce mosquito abundance. More generally, any overall evaluation of the impact of an invasive species needs to consider possible benefits (e.g. to human health) as well as negative effects (e.g. to native species). Both types of information are essential to inform community decisions about the management of feral taxa such as the cane toad in Australia.