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ESR 46:269-277 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01158

Impacts of invasive cane toads on an Endangered marsupial predator and its prey

J. Sean Doody1,2,*, Colin McHenry2, David Rhind3, Callie Gray1, Simon Clulow2,4

1Dept. of Biological Sciences, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg Campus, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701, USA
2School of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales 2308, Australia
3Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Northern Territory Government, PO Box 496, Palmerston, Northern Territory 0831, Australia
4Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, North Ryde, New South Wales 2109, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Recent research has revealed that impacts of some invasive species are chronic. Invasive cane toads Rhinella marina have apparently caused rapid and severe population-level declines of the Endangered northern quoll Dasyurus hallucatus across tropical Australia; however, more targeted, quantitative impact data are needed to disentangle this from other threats such as fire regimes, disease, feral cats and dingos. Moreover, repeatable counts before, during, after and long after toad invasion are needed in order to determine if short-term impacts are chronic vs. transitory. We used game cameras to monitor 2 quoll populations and their prey over a 5 yr period spanning the invasion of the toxic cane toads in 2 gorges in northwestern Australia. We predicted severe declines in quolls with the toad invasion, and predatory release of 2 prey species of quolls, a rodent and a smaller marsupial. Quolls declined quickly upon arrival of toads, becoming undetectable in one gorge and barely detectable in the other. Identification of individuals via unique spot patterns confirmed that the declines in detection rates were due to changes in relative abundance rather than decreases in activity. Despite quoll declines we found no evidence of mesopredator release; small mammals generally declined as toads arrived. Our research confirmed rapid population-level declines of quolls, and possibly smaller mammals, associated with arrival of invasive cane toads. Importantly, our surveys provide a baseline for future surveys to determine whether these short-term impacts are chronic or transitory, and whether recovery requires assistance from managers.


KEY WORDS: Chronic effects · Recovery · Lethal toxic ingestion · Mesopredator release · Quoll · Toad · Rhinella marina · Dasyurus hallucatus


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Cite this article as: Doody JS, McHenry C, Rhind D, Gray C, Clulow S (2021) Impacts of invasive cane toads on an Endangered marsupial predator and its prey. Endang Species Res 46:269-277. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01158

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