, Volume 12, Issue 9, pp 3363-3369
Date: 06 Mar 2010

Indirect ecological impacts of an invasive toad on predator–prey interactions among native species

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Abstract

One of the many ways that invasive species can affect native ecosystems is by modifying the behavioural and ecological interactions among native species. For example, the arrival of the highly toxic cane toad (Bufo marinus) in tropical Australia has induced toad-aversion in some native predators. Has that shift also affected the predators’ responses to native prey—for example, by reducing vulnerability of native tadpoles via a mimicry effect, or increasing vulnerability of other prey types (such as insects) via a shift in predator feeding tactics? We exposed a native predator (northern trout gudgeon, Mogurnda mogurnda) to toad tadpoles in the laboratory, and measured effects of that exposure on the fish’s subsequent intake of native tadpoles and crickets. As predicted, toad-exposed fishes reduced their rate of predation on (palatable) tadpoles of native frogs (Litoria caerulea and L. nasuta). If alternative prey (crickets) were available also, the toad-exposed fishes shifted even more strongly away from predation on native tadpoles. Thus, invasion of a toxic species can provide a mimicry benefit to native taxa that resemble the invader, and can shift predation pressure onto other taxa.