Queensland rangers were shocked to discover a “monster” cane toad roaming inside a national park.
With the invasive creatures adapting to new regions of Australia, there are fears the massive toad could be a sign of worse to come. The poisonous amphibian stretched to almost the length of a ruler and weighed 2.7kg. Authorities believe she could be the largest ever found.
It was discovered by park ranger Kylee Gray who was driving through rainforest in Conway National Park, just south of Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays.
Stopping her vehicle to let a snake cross, she then noticed the toad and gasped at the size of it. “I reached down and grabbed the cane toad and couldn’t believe how big and heavy it was,” she said. “We dubbed it Toadzilla, and quickly put it into a container so we could remove it from the wild.”
Toadzilla’s image has been splashed across newspapers across Australia, but unfortunately for her, she won’t be able to cash in on her newfound celebrity status, with the department of environment (DES) confirming she was euthanised. Queensland Museum has reportedly expressed interest in displaying her.
'Extraordinary' find could be bad sign for Queensland
Responding to the find, Andrew Cox from the Invasive Species Council noted that cane toads are changing in size and appearance as they adapt to different regions in Australia.
As they expand west through Kakadu and into the Kimberly, cane toads at the edge of the "invasion front" have longer legs than those following them, allowing them to quickly conquer new territory.
Animals and birds in warmer climates, where Toadzilla was found, often evolve to be larger, and Mr Cox hopes her discovery isn't an indication that this is occurring, because bigger animals can consume more food. "This is extraordinary and I'm worried that over time cane toads in Queensland might all become much larger and therefore the impacts grow," he told Yahoo News Australia.
Professor Rick Shine, a cane toad expert associated with Macquarie University, agreed the cane toad was unusual, describing it as a "huge animal". However, he said there can be a wide size range amongst species of cold-blooded animals.
"Every fisherman has a story about the occasional giant bream or flathead that he's caught in their long career, and this is just the same kind of a story," he said. "It's likely an individual that's got a combination of unusual genes and has probably had some good feeding opportunities, so its reached a size that's enormously in excess of the average."
Australian wildlife adapting to cane toads
Cane toads were introduced into Queensland in 1935 as part of a misguided attempt to control cane beetles. Able to lay up to 30,000 eggs in a season, they have had a devastating impact on native species.
Consuming large amounts of insects, and the occasional invertebrate, they compete with wildlife for food. The toxic glands behind their eyes and skin are known to be toxic to most animals, as are their tadpoles.
In its native Americas, there are many species that eat cane toads, including caimans, ibis and snakes.
In Australia most native animals die or become extremely ill from eating them, however water rats, known as rakali, have learned to dissect the toad’s poisonous glands and consume them. Native ibis have also adapted. A recent study found the birds are stressing the toads so they excrete their poison and then they wash them in a river to remove it.
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