Need to get somewhere fast? Growing longer legs is the cane toad’s answer. The amphibian pest is accelerating its march across the Australian landscape, leaving a trail of ecological devastation. Cane toads (Bufo marinus) were first introduced to the country 70 years ago in an attempt to control beetles. But the invader began eating other native fauna and spread across much of the country, wreaking havoc along the way. By strapping tiny radiotransmitters to the toads’ waists, the researchers revealed that they can travel at an alarming rate. The sprinters can move up to 1.8 kilometres a night and generally opt to travel along roads. “The toads are making it on their own – they aren’t hitchhiking on the back of trucks as had been suspected,” says Richard Shine, who led the research team.
So how are they making the distance so easily? Shine and his colleagues looked at preserved museum specimens and historical records and found that the toads have become 25% leggier and fivefold faster over a 60-year period.