Locomotor performance in an invasive species: cane toads from the invasion front have greater endurance, but not speed, compared to conspecifics from a long-colonised area
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Cane toads (Bufo marinus) are now moving about 5 times faster through tropical Australia than they did a half-century ago, during the early phases of toad invasion. Radio-tracking has revealed higher daily rates of displacement by toads at the invasion front compared to those from long-colonised areas: toads from frontal populations follow straighter paths, move more often, and move further per displacement than do toads from older (long-established) populations. Are these higher movement rates of invasion-front toads associated with modified locomotor performance (e.g. speed, endurance)? In an outdoor raceway, toads collected from the invasion front had similar speeds, but threefold greater endurance, compared to conspecifics collected from a long-established population. Thus, increased daily displacement in invasion-front toads does not appear to be driven by changes in locomotor speed. Instead, increased dispersal is associated with higher endurance, suggesting that invasion-front toads tend to spend more time moving than do their less dispersive conspecifics. Whether this increased endurance is a cause or consequence of behavioural shifts associated with rapid dispersal is unclear. Nonetheless, shifts in endurance between frontal and core populations of this invasive species point to the complex panoply of traits affected by selection for increased dispersal ability on expanding population fronts.