Invasive imported species - Cane Toads

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Invasive imported species - Cane Toads

Postby Event Horizon on March 13th, 2018, 11:18 pm 

How can we help our Australian cousins reverse the huge expansion in the range and number of poisonous Cane Toads that were introduced to eat beetles attacking sugar-cane crops?

Now we have the ability to genetically engineer nematode worms and suchlike, can we create a vector that prevents them producing very poisonous toxin(s) which prevents them being predated?

What can the scientific community do to help rectify the problem? A toad version of Myxomatosis perhaps.

For Australia, this is an ecological catastrophe. Can we help?
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Re: Invasive imported species - Cane Toads

Postby zetreque on March 13th, 2018, 11:35 pm 

In most cases (all that I know), when something is introduced to try to solve the problem of something else that was introduced, it results in even more damage.

We can help by doing NOTHING (other than directly killing the cane toads) until good scientists can spend years studying every possible aspect of taking another action.

Ecological systems are so incredibly complex. As far as I know for all the cases, the outcome is an eventual equilibrium of the ecosystem with the new species.

Where I live, top scientists have been spending up to decades studying this stuff and while they can manage it, there is nothing they can do to reverse the damage yet.
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Re: Invasive imported species - Cane Toads

Postby Watson on March 13th, 2018, 11:37 pm 

You should post a link to the article or source, for more information we can follow up with.

But,
If it is to good to be true......
There is always a cost......
Nature understands nature, and we don't......


So, a beetle eating toad that behaves as you want, is to good to be true, it does have a cost and nature adapts.
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Re: Invasive imported species - Cane Toads

Postby zetreque on March 13th, 2018, 11:43 pm 

Joking aside, probably one of the best things someone can do to "help" control an invasive species is come up with culinary uses.
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Re: Invasive imported species - Cane Toads

Postby Watson on March 13th, 2018, 11:57 pm 

No joking. As I was typing I was wondering how big they were, and what they might taste like. Stonefish is on the menu, somewhere.
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Re: Invasive imported species - Cane Toads

Postby Event Horizon on March 14th, 2018, 12:11 am 

Cane toads are very large indeed. Adults can weigh up to about 2 kilos. They don't just eat beetles, they eat everything. The poison they secrete is deadly poisonous, so you can't eat them, and nor can anything else without being killed by the poison. There are literally 10's of millions of them. They cannot all just be collected. They are far too many, and the country is very large indeed.

I mean, can we develop a toxin that can be delivered by crop-dusters that renders them infertile perhaps? They are wrecking the Australian ecosystem.

I posed this really to start a discussion of what kind of remedy might work, and how to administer it effectively. It would probably land the successful team to crack this enough money to retire on in comfort. It's worth some serious thought.
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Re: Invasive imported species - Cane Toads

Postby zetreque on March 14th, 2018, 12:29 am 

These discussions for a solution are futile (unless one wishes to just talk about the topic) IMO because there are already scientists working on these issues and it's much more complex than we can tackle on this forum. Scientists study the lifecycles of these creatures in great detail looking for a way to disrupt their lifecycle. Exhaustive observational studies must be done to look at all the interactions. I almost got a grant this coming summer to do just that with some invasive moths that are taking over here. The best possible thing anyone can do is to prevent more invasive species from spreading and adapt to the ones that exist. Meanwhile people can still study them for possible ways to eliminate them but nothing should be introduced until decades of trials and research! We can dream of finding a way to fix the problem and it might be possible but it's like unscrambling an egg.

Any toxin you put into the environment will affect other wildlife. I assume you are thinking something specifically genetic to that species of frog but so far I have not heard of such a thing. I think the closest of an example of this is killing mosquitos in Florida. If the other wildlife your toxin gets into is then eaten by humans or works it's way up the food chain then that's another problem. Then there are species that have quick short enough life cycles where they can develop resistance to a toxin.

Then you have the small fraction of toads that will escape the toxin you deliver or be immune to it, then you are left with the problem all over again.

As it is, we don't understand amphibians all that well because we still don't understand the global extinction of amphibians but we have a good idea that there are multiple factors involved. Which makes me bring up that amphibians aren't as weak as we might think when it comes to a single toxin.

Is there any way to neutralize the toad's toxin so they can be eaten? Maybe the toads can be profitable in other ways such as harvesting their toxin to kill Russian spies?
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Re: Invasive imported species - Cane Toads

Postby Event Horizon on March 14th, 2018, 12:56 am 

Haaha! I can almost see Kermit the frog in the Old Bailey fighting extradition to Russia for murder!

The Aussies have militias that go out to destroy as many as they can, but it's never enough. They have to train their animals to avoid them by turning toads into sausages that causes an aversion if I remember correctly.

I think it is going to take a scientifically designed extermination programme, but what this might be is still eluding us.

I'm not saying there is any easy solution to this, evidently it's not easy at all. This is why I am posting on this issue. I'm hoping we can propose potential solutions and discuss them. I don't expect us to cure the problem from here, but it would be pretty cool if we came up with some potentially viable solutions to explore. We don't do these things because they are easy, we do them because they aren't easy. Maybe we can help, who knows?
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Re: Invasive imported species - Cane Toads

Postby zetreque on March 14th, 2018, 12:59 am 

Should be interesting to see the research that comes out of the Florida experiment.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os- ... story.html
There are still many unknowns and unknowns are dangerous when it comes to trying to control invasive species through treatments.
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2 ... 144202.htm

Questions: How does Wolbachia affect the bats and birds that eat the mosquitoes? Does Wolbachia inhibit the transmission of diseases that keep other animals in check. Like without disease causing mosquitoes, would we end up with an epidemic of bats which then have other transmittable viruses?
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Re: Invasive imported species - Cane Toads

Postby zetreque on March 14th, 2018, 1:11 am 

Event Horizon » Tue Mar 13, 2018 9:56 pm wrote: I don't expect us to cure the problem from here, but it would be pretty cool if we came up with some potentially viable solutions to explore.


Part of me is sad I didn't get the grant for this summer because I had some cool ideas and it would have been a lot of fun, but there is part of me that is glad I didn't get it. When coming up with an idea to kill off a species I realized that it could easily be adapted by people and companies to kill off other species they simply find offensive but actually are good. It's kind of like one of those paradoxes where you invent something that can do good but at the same time the invention can do harm.

For example, people put out bee traps because they are scared to death of them. Some people have reason to be since they can go into anaphylaxis shock if they are stung. I grew up around them and learned not to fear them at all. I actually find the hum they make when I am camping to be soothing. They provide a great service to the environment keeping things in balance and performing services like pollination. This is leaving out the details because there are different types of bees, some are harmful to humans while others benefit humans.
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Re: Invasive imported species - Cane Toads

Postby Event Horizon on March 14th, 2018, 1:36 am 

Yeah, Africanised bees can be quite dangerous, but we still need them. The world population of bees could be said to be crashing due to a fungus and/or pesticides. If the bees die out, our crops and flowering plants will also be vulnerable to dying out. This would cause famines and the loss of plants and wildlife.

Most things we invent has the duality you spoke of. A car can be a tool or a weapon. Alcohol can enhance your life or destroy it. Its a calculated risk. I don't think this is a valid excuse for doing nothing. We know so much more now than we did in 1938 that it would be irresponsible not to use what we have learned in the subsequent 75 years or so.

I know the Aussies are trying hard to find a solution. I don't see the harm in trying to help in some small way. And wouldn't it be amazing if we did come up with something useful..
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Re: Invasive imported species - Cane Toads

Postby zetreque on March 14th, 2018, 1:41 am 

Event Horizon » Tue Mar 13, 2018 10:36 pm wrote: I don't think this is a valid excuse for doing nothing.


Well when it comes to invasive species and trying to control them, given how effed up humans have made things, I give them zero credibility on this topic. Probably far better to put our efforts into figuring out ways to preventing the spread of more. The problem continues to get worse where I live and it has HUGE aesthetic, health and economic repercussions. I think it's also a worthy endevour to put effort into observing and researching the impacts of invasive species because we learn so much about the world and potential ways to prevent the spread of more in the future. A possible side-effect from that then might be stumbling onto a solution.
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Re: Invasive imported species - Cane Toads

Postby Event Horizon on March 14th, 2018, 2:30 am 

Australia seems to have imported more problem organisms than most other countries. Toads, rabbits, hogs, cats to name but a few. Did you know that some south American countries still use DDT to try and control mosquitoes. DDT gets concentrated in the fat of animals as it goes up the food chain and is highly persistent. But the authorities only have a bad option or a worse option. It could be that the Australian authorities will have to make that same terrible decision and area spray something that gets absorbed through the permeable skin of the toads.
I think it may come down to something like that in the end.
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Re: Invasive imported species - Cane Toads

Postby zetreque on March 14th, 2018, 2:39 am 

Most of the world seems behind the learning curve of what is known and being found out.

Yes Australia has many. The impact of invasive species is far larger than what even people in the industry realize.
There are so many right now it's hard to know where to start. Whole species of trees along the coast of California are being wiped out and it's rarely talked about.

Years ago when I went to New Zealand they even checked my shoes for mud. Islands are a major risk to outside species but people don't realize how bad it can be within continents too. Agricultural stations on US state boarders are not in use as much as they used to be. I assume lack of funding. In other regions of the world I think they are more concerned about immigrants and terrorists than some virus that can destroy whole species of crops animals or vegetation.
Aquatic pathogens are also taking a large toll on the world. All this fish farming is spreading pathogens to new areas of the ocean taking out breeds of economically important fish stocks.
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Re: Invasive imported species - Cane Toads

Postby Event Horizon on March 14th, 2018, 3:36 am 

Yeah. There has been a big problem with shipping. They take on tons of ballast, complete with local organisms and sail off across the globe where they then dump the ballast back into the sea. Complete with organisms alien to that area.
Some go on to cause problems. I don't think terrorism will kill as many people as a screwed up ecosystem will but people have a habit of dismissing information they don't like.
<Who cares about a blight on their crops when the US is raining bombs down as usual> I would just like to qualify that the US has bombed more countries than any other nation. One day people are gonna have to face a stark choise - How do they want to die? Anyway, thats a whole other topic.
We had Dutch Elm disease when I was a kid, and now white oak are in trouble. These are beautiful trees and it's so sad to loose them.
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Re: Invasive imported species - Cane Toads

Postby zetreque on March 14th, 2018, 3:47 am 

I think it's more that humans just think in human terms. The universe revolves around them. They become arrogant that they think they can control the universe and think that technology will solve everything when we have never actually caught up solving the major problems in the world. When it comes to the topic of life, policy, and all thinking is shaped around human life. It ignores the fact that human life is dependent on the evolution and interactions of all life around it and before it. Unless the education system starts teaching systems thinking and ecology we are doomed. Old wisdom humans obtained over hundreds of thousands of years evolving in the environment has been lost over the past couple centuries as they got excited about technology and their own power to shape the face of the planet.

Another related topic.
It was in the news the other day with NASA giving a warming to Elon Musk's latest stunt about how it could contaminate another planet now that it is off course. NASA is careful trying to sterilize all spacecraft because it could mess up things like the search for life if we contaminate other planets. This is also a reason why we must set aside national parks that are untouched wilderness. Nature will forever hold knowledge that we don't yet have and can learn from. Including the solutions to ecology problems of eradicating an invasive species to reset the balance in the ecosystem.
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Re: Invasive imported species - Cane Toads

Postby Event Horizon on March 14th, 2018, 4:03 am 

The planet has survived 6 mass extinction events, and has come back from the brink. We are currently undergoing the 7th (I think) mass extinction event. This event is happening faster and killing more species than all the other mass extinction events. Only 1% of life that has inhabited Earth still exists, and it's dwindling. But there is no Apocalypse to show for it and it goes largely unnoticed by, well, nearly everyone. With no new speciation going on like the Cambrian explosion, species will continue to dwindle. The planet is slowly dying, but in geological time it's going on apace. It's very worrying, and no-one seems very bothered about it.
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Re: Invasive imported species - Cane Toads

Postby zetreque on March 14th, 2018, 4:08 am 

Right. And we could talk about what they are instead worried about but I think we all know the current political, corporate, and societal atmosphere. I say let the cane toads have their day in the sun. We have bigger problems to figure out :)

Any idea on how you would stop the spread of the cane toads at least?
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Re: Invasive imported species - Cane Toads

Postby Event Horizon on March 14th, 2018, 4:36 am 

Yes, there are a few measures that might help.

1) To stop them encroaching into new areas it is possible to make something akin to an electric sheep or cattle fence that is laid on the ground horizontally. Miles and miles could be laid for not much money, and powered by solar energy. I've had a belt off such a fence here, and I can't see a toad trying to cross it. It is non-lethal, so other animals won't get killed by mistake.
2) If you filled a sprayer with a strong nicotine solution, you could spray the toads with it. Nicotine is absorbed through human skin, let alone a permeable skin and is lethal in minutes. It's not very persistent and you can't adapt to tolerate it. It only takes about 50mg to kill a human through skin absorbtion, so would be able to kill many toads. Some insect life will also perish, but if the areas are managed properly there would be stocks of insects that can later radiate out.

There maybe parasites and biological controls, but I would be loathe to go that route.
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Re: Invasive imported species - Cane Toads

Postby Braininvat on March 14th, 2018, 9:59 am 

Wow, it's rare here for a cane toad thread to show this much activity in a five hour period! I doubt any sort of fence would work on a toad, given its ability to hop. Perhaps a zapper (like the thing we have for flying insects in the States) that emits a cane toad mating call?
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Re: Invasive imported species - Cane Toads

Postby Event Horizon on March 15th, 2018, 9:16 pm 

Clearly, due to the size of Australia, the range and number of toads, and what to do about them is going to take some creative thinking. It's just impossible to physically kill enough of them by hand to make any significant difference. Containment is impossible, that train already left the platform a long time ago.
Other species have been controlled by poisoned food in the past, but that's not going to work without poisoning other creatures.
I really feel for the Australian authorities, it would seem to be an impossible task. I'm not ready to settle for that yet.
It struck me today that there may be a way to kill them in, or prevent them reaching spawning grounds. When they gather to mate and spawn, it might be worth targeting the spawn and/or tadpoles rather than the adult toads.

It could be possible to pass an electrical charge through the water, much the same way as we already use to stun and/or kill fish. It doesn't matter if these spots are isolated, Australia has an abundance of sunlight and the equipment could run on solar power rather than actually poisoning the water with a chemical.. The dead young might have to be removed so that their decay doesn't also poison the water.

I know this is a vexed problem, I just hope that by thinking a little outside the box we might be able to help mitigate the problem, even if it doesn't totally cure it.
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Re: Invasive imported species - Cane Toads

Postby zetreque on March 15th, 2018, 9:49 pm 

What species other than humans are negatively affected by the introduction of these toads? What are the trophic cascades? Any references you can add to the discussion would be interesting.
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Re: Invasive imported species - Cane Toads

Postby Watson on March 15th, 2018, 10:26 pm 

There was also mention of eating them. A lot of information on these toads if interested.


Other than the use as a biological control for pests, the cane toad has been employed in a number of commercial and noncommercial applications. Traditionally, within the toad's natural range in South America, the Embera-Wounaan would "milk" the toads for their toxin, which was then employed as an arrow poison. The toxins may have been used as an entheogen by the Olmec people. The toad has been hunted as a food source in parts of Peru, and eaten after the careful removal of the skin and parotoid glands.[114] When properly prepared, the meat of the toad is considered healthy and as a source of omega-3 fatty acids.[115] More recently, the toad's toxins have been used in a number of new ways: bufotenin has been used in Japan as an aphrodisiac and a hair restorer, and in cardiac surgery in China to lower the heart rates of patients.[29] New research has suggested that the cane toad's poison may have some applications in treating prostate cancer
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cane_toad
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Re: Invasive imported species - Cane Toads

Postby Event Horizon on March 16th, 2018, 12:23 am 

zetreque » March 16th, 2018, 2:49 am wrote:What species other than humans are negatively affected by the introduction of these toads? What are the trophic cascades? Any references you can add to the discussion would be interesting.


"39. Australian native fauna that have been killed by eating or mouthing cane toads include goannas, freshwater crocodiles, tiger snake, red-bellied black snakes, death adders, dingoes and quolls."

Cats will eat small toads, but they are also an invasive species so we have a but of mutual neutralization going on.

I would not trust to Japanese medicine. They also think tiger bones and Rhino horn are also Aphrodisiacs. Why do they need so many aphrodisiacs anyway? What's wrong with them?

I'm going to contact the Australian minister for the interior, and for wildlife conservation tomorrow if I can. I want to know what's been tried, and what they are considering to do next. My friend Dr. Karl at Melbourne University has an encyclopedic mind and I would like to get his views too. He may even have made a podcast on it.

I will try to discern whatever trophic cascade(s) relating to the toads that exist now, and see if It can be short-circuited somehow.

If the toads can be made safe to eat, then why not? I do worry that like Fugu which is also deadly if not prepared to an exact specification and will and does kill people.

Eating them is not going to help anyway, there are tens, if not hundreds of millions of them.

http://www.iucngisd.org/gisd/ - Global invasive Species database Not terribly helpful really.

For Wiki, they've done a pretty decent article on it. I was most surprised. Well worth a look.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cane_toads_in_Australia
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Re: Invasive imported species - Cane Toads

Postby zetreque on March 16th, 2018, 12:34 am 

Event Horizon » Thu Mar 15, 2018 9:23 pm wrote:I would not trust to Japanese medicine. They also think tiger bones and Rhino horn are also Aphrodisiacs. Why do they need so many aphrodisiacs anyway? What's wrong with them?


HAHA, I almost said something too. Like what isn't an aphrodisiac in that region of the world?

Eating them is not going to help anyway, there are tens, if not hundreds of millions of them.


There are a few articles about the benefits of eating invasive species. For one, it takes the pressure off of other resource intensive crops and transportation infrastructure of moving food. I think it was Scientific American that did a great article on it a few years ago.
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Re: Invasive imported species - Cane Toads

Postby zetreque on March 16th, 2018, 12:47 am 

You should go down to your uni and login to their academic database. Just one small search engine at mine gives 526 results.

Here is one.

Invasive cane toads are unique in shape but overlap in ecological niche compared to Australian native frogs.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29043018

and another
http://journals.plos.org/plosone/articl ... =printable
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Re: Invasive imported species - Cane Toads

Postby Event Horizon on March 16th, 2018, 12:53 am 

Apparently they can be eaten if properly prepared, not unlike Fugu. If there is a way to dry and store prepared protein and suchlike, they could possibly be used where malnutrition is a serious threat. The central African republic, for example, Sudan, Ethiopia, Syria and so many others might welcome an apparently inexhaustible food source that might save human lives.
Eating them might not be an idle solution. I can see applications for that. Just do me a favor, and dont go telling me it tastes of chicken!
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