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Direct and indirect effects of the introduced toad Bufo marinus (Anura: Bufonidae) on populations of native anuran larvae in Australia

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Introduced species are frequently believed to have adverse effects on native biota and ecosystems. However, much of our knowledge of the ecological impacts of introduced species is anecdotal, and the mechanisms controlling these effects are often poorly understood. I used replicated artificial pond experiments to investigate the impact of eggs and hatchlings of the introduced toad Bufo marinus on populations of native anuran larvae (Limnodynastes ornatus and Litoria rubella) in Australia. Bufo marinus eggs and hatchlings are highly toxic to predatory native tadpoles. Under naturalistic conditions, populations of predatory L. ornatus tadpoles experienced significantly reduced survival when exposed to Bufo eggs and hatchlings. The impact of Bufo on L. ornatus survival was positively correlated with Bufo density. However, the toxic effects of Bufo on L. ornatus indirectly facilitated the survival of later-breeding L. rubella by altering predator-prey interactions between L. ornatus and L. rubella. Limnodynastes ornatus tadpoles are voracious predators of L. rubella eggs and hatchlings. Consequently, the negative impact of Bufo on populations of L. ornatus tadpoles reduced the intensity of predation by L. ornatus tadpoles on L. rubella eggs and hatchlings, thereby increasing L. rubella survival. The results demonstrate that B. marinus plays an important role in structuring native larval anuran communities via direct and indirect mechanisms, and that Bufo may have both negative and positive effects on populations of native anuran larvae. As far as I am aware, these are the first quantitative data to demonstrate that introduced fauna may affect populations of native biota via toxic effects.
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Document Type: Original Article

Publication date: June 1, 2000

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