The Cane toad received his name from its introduction to several areas as pest control in Sugar Cane fields. Although it was introduced in Puerto Rico to decrease the White-Grub beetle that fed on sugar cane crops, its efficiency was not always known to reach high levels like it happened in Puerto Rico. In fact, when they introduced the Cane Toad in Australia, this species earned the reputation of a pest rather than a pest control solution. Nowadays, the Cane Toad is known to be responsible for the decline in mosquito populations. One of the problems created by the Cane Toad was the fact that its toxicity level threatened the survival of native species and pets.
This toad was introduced in several regions as a pest control solution to exterminate rodents and beetles feeding on crops such as sugar cane and sweet potatoes. These regions include some states such as: Florida, Louisiana and Hawaii. Other countries were mainly located in the Caribbean (Puerto Rico, Martinique, Barbados and Jamaica), Australia and the Pacific (Papua New Guinea, Philippines and some Japanese islands).
The Cane toad is native to the Americas (Central and South) and southern Texas. It lives in both tropical and subtropical climates. It can survives in temperature as cold as 10-15 degrees Celsius (50-59 degrees Fahrenheit) and as warm as 40-42 degrees Celsius (104-108 degrees Fahrenheit). The Cane toad is known for its ability to live despite high levels of water loss (up to 52.6%).
This toad reaches a large size of 10-15 cm (3.9-5.9 inches) at adulthood and a weigh of 2.65 kg (5.84 lb). The female is longer than the male. Its skin is dry and warty. Its main characteristics are the parotoid glands, one behind each eye and the ridges above the eyes. The pupils are horizontal and the irises are golden. Each gland contains a milky poisonous substance called "Bufotoxin" which can kill most predators, pets and even humans when ingested. This toxin slows down the heart rate of the one ingesting it, eventually killing the victim.
Tadpoles are venomous if ingested. Young toads have a low survival rate as during their metamorphosis, they lose their toxicity. Only 0.5% of young toads reach their full maturity. A female will lay a string of approximately 8,000 to 25,000 eggs, which will hatch within 48 hours, depending of the warmth of their environment. Heat will accelerate their development. The average length of their metamorphosis is one month, although it can vary between 12-60 days. Reproduction occurs throughout the year. Their life expectancy ranges from 10 to 15 years into the wilderness.
The Cane toad's diet includes: some invertebrates, plants, dog food, household food waste, birds, reptiles, rodents and other amphibians. Their main predators are: the black rat, the Broad-Snouted caiman, the Banded Cat-Eyed snake, some species of catfish, the eel, some species of killifish, the Rakali, the Whistling Kite, the Water Monitor, the Tawny Frogmouth, the Papuan Frogmouth, the opossum, the Rockflagtail, some species of Ibis and humans. The Cane toad uses two defense mechanisms. The first one is the production of Bufotoxin, which poisons its predators. The second one is by puffing itself up by inflating his lungs and propping himself in a way that makes it look larger than its actual size.
The Cane toad has been used in several ways. They have been considered as great tools in labs as they are inexpensive to obtain, to raise and in caring for them. They have been used in pregnancy tests. In China, doctors use Bufotenin, which is a non-toxic substance they produce. It is used in China during surgery to reduce the heart rate of the patient. In Japan, it is used as an aphrodisiac and to grow hair. Their skin is also used in leather products. Some Cane toads are stuffed and sold to tourists as souvenirs. Their body is also used in the creation of fertilizer.
The Cane toad is an amazing amphibian! Although humans have exploited their use to decrease the populations of various pests, it is now considered as a pest itself. It is sad to see how human interference in the natural cycle of life can result in such problematic situations, affecting various ecosystems. This is why I believe that humans should focus on respecting their environment rather than transforming it into a utopian world.
Here are some resources linked to the Cane toad.