Rhinella marina (cane toad)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Distribution Table
- Habitat List
- Biology and Ecology
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Pathway Vectors
- Impact Summary
- Threatened Species
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Prevention and Control
- Principal Source
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Rhinella marina (Linnaeus, 1758)
Preferred Common Name
- cane toad
Other Scientific Names
- Bufo agua Clark 1916
- Bufo marinis Barbour 1916
- Bufo marinus Mertens 1969
- Bufo marinus Schneider 1799
- Bufo marinus marinus Mertens 1972
- Bufo strumosus Court 1858
- Chaunus marinus Frost et al. 2006
International Common Names
- English: bufo toad; giant American toad; giant toad; marine Toad; Suriname toad
Local Common Names
- Caribbean: crapaud; kwapp
- Dominican Republic: maco pempen; Maco toro
- Germany: Aga-Kröte
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Cane toads (Rhinella marina) were introduced to many countries as biological control agents for various insect pests of sugarcane and other crops. The cane toads have proved to be pests themselves. They will feed on almost any terrestrial animal and compete with native amphibians for food and breeding habitats. Their toxic secretions are known to cause illness and death in domestic animals that come into contact with them, such as dogs and cats, and wildlife, such as snakes and lizards. When threatened, they are able to squirt the toxic secretion over a metre, causing extreme pain if rubbed into the eyes. Human fatalities have been recorded following ingestion of the eggs or adults.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Metazoa
- Phylum: Chordata
- Subphylum: Vertebrata
- Class: Amphibia
- Order: Anura
- Family: Bufonidae
- Genus: Rhinella
- Species: Rhinella marina
DescriptionTop of page
Cane toads are heavily built with short legs. They can sometimes grow up to 30cm long, with 20cm not uncommon for females and and average of 12-15cm in many regions. Males are slightly smaller. Fingers lack webbing, but the toes are heavily webbed. Adults have a rough, warty skin, coloured tan, brown or dark brown, dull green or black. The tympanum is distinct, about one half to two thirds the size of the eye. Venom glands are aggregated together to form large and distinctive parotoid glands, found above each shoulder. These glands are able to ooze venom. (Gautherot, 2000)
DistributionTop of page
Native range: Cane toads are indigenous to northern South America (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Paraguay, Venezuela, the Guianas, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago), Central America, and Mexico northward to extreme southern Texas.
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 10 Feb 2022
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Egypt||Absent, Formerly present||1937|
|Mauritius||Absent, Intercepted only||First reported: 1930s-1940s|
|British Indian Ocean Territory||Present||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: Presumed to be between 1980 and 1989|
|-Chagos Archipelago||Present||Introduced||First reported: presumed to be between 1980-1989|
|Japan||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Ryukyu Islands||Present||Introduced||2000||Invasive||First reported: first discovered in December 2000|
|Taiwan||Absent, Formerly present||1935|
|Thailand||Absent, Formerly present||1975|
|Antigua and Barbuda||Present||Introduced||First reported: before 1916|
|Barbados||Present||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: c. 1833|
|Bermuda||Present||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: 1885, C. 1875 or 1885 (maybe 1812)|
|British Virgin Islands||Present||Introduced|
|Cayman Islands||Present||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: Before 1887|
|Cuba||Absent, Formerly present||1920|
|Dominica||Absent, Formerly present|
|Grenada||Present||Introduced||First reported: c. 1870s|
|Guadeloupe||Present||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: Before 1914|
|Martinique||Present||Introduced||First reported: before 1844|
|Montserrat||Present||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: c. 1900, Before 1879|
|Puerto Rico||Present||Introduced||First reported: c. 1920|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||Present||Introduced||First reported: before 1904|
|Saint Lucia||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Severely impacting on biodiversity; First reported: before 1879|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||Present||Introduced||First reported: before 1916|
|Trinidad and Tobago||Present||Native|
|U.S. Virgin Islands||Present||Introduced||1934|
|United States||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Florida||Present||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: early 1960s|
|-New South Wales||Present||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: 1964-1966|
|-Northern Territory||Present||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: 1982-1983|
|Federated States of Micronesia||Present||Introduced||First reported: before 1954|
|Marshall Islands||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced|
|Northern Mariana Islands||Present||Introduced||First reported: 1939-1941|
|Palau||Present||Introduced||First reported: after WWII|
|Papua New Guinea||Present||Introduced||1937|
HabitatTop of page
Cane toads' original habitat, before their dispersal by humans, was seasonal Amazonian savanna, with small fresh water lakes. Cane toads are found in rain forests, both in their native range and introduced range, such as in Hawaii and New Guinea, though not at high densities (Fred Kraus pers.comm). However, they can now be found in many places, such as man-made ponds, gardens, drain pipes, debris, under cement piles and beneath houses. Cane toads will usually stay on dry land and reproduce in any shallow water near its surroundings. Toads and tadpoles are able to tolerate very high levels of salinity. Tadpoles have been observed in water, metres from the open ocean.
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Urban / peri-urban areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Riverbanks||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Wetlands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Freshwater||Lakes||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Freshwater||Rivers / streams||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Freshwater||Ponds||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
Cane toads eat “almost any terrestrial animal”, although they are more likely to consume animals active at ground level during the night. The major diet items are insects, including grass-hoppers, caterpillars and ants, together with millipedes and land snails (Hinkley, 1962 in SPREP, 2000).
The cane toad is opportunistic in its feeding habits and will consume almost anything that it is able to catch (Zug and Zug, 1979 in Lever, 2001). Terrestrial arthropods make up the bulk of the diet, but snails, crabs, small vertebrates (mammals, birds, lizards and frogs), pet food and human faeces may also be consumed (Lever, 2001). Cane toads will gorge themselves if food is in abundance. Unusual items that cane toads have been observed eating include rotting garbage, a coral snake (Micrurus circinalis), fledgling birds and a lit cigarette butt (Lever, 2001).
Cane toads breed between the months of April and September in the Northern Hemisphere and they can be heard calling their mates, beginning in late March. In the Southern Hemisphere, in Australia, it has been noticed that the male cane toad calls in any month of the year, peaking during the wet season. Every year the female cane toad produces two clutches of about 8,000 to 35,000 eggs. The eggs are externally fertilised by the male's sperm. The eggs can be found floating on the surface of water in a jelly-like string or wrapped around vegetation and other debris in the water. The age and size of the female will determine how many eggs the toad will produce (Honolulu Zoo).
Cane toad eggs hatch within 24 to 72 hours of laying into tiny, shiny black tadpoles. Tadpoles metamorphose after two to seven weeks (Alford et al. 1995), becoming very small (10-12mm) terrestrial juveniles. These small juveniles experience very high mortality, and unlike adults or larger juveniles they tend to be diurnal.
It has been estimated that less 0.5 percent of cane toads toad eggs survive to maturity. It takes a year for the toads to reach maturity, when they will be about 75mm long. Cane toads survival in the wild is unknown, but unlikely to be more than 5 years. Animals kept in captivity are estimated to live 10-40 years (Honolulu Zoo).
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Introduction pathways to new locations
Acclimatisation societies: Cane toads have been introduced to many locations around the world as a biological control agent for crop pests (NRM, 2001).
Natural dispersal: Cane toads have spread over large areas of Australia under their own power (Lever, 2001). In the north of their Australian range, dispersal is primarily effected by adults hopping large distances (up to about 55km per year), in relatively straight lines. Cane toads in northern Australia are thus the fastest moving anurans yet recorded. This remarkable dispersal ability appears to be the result of strong selection operating on toads over the last seventy years (Philips et al. 2006).
Road vehicles (long distance): Cane toads have been transported in Australia by large freight trucks or 'road trains' (Sydney Morning Herald, 2002).
Seafreight (container/bulk): Cane toads have been found on Norfolk Islands
Local dispersal methods
Natural dispersal (local): Cane toads have spread over large areas of Australia under their own power (Lever, 2001). In the north of their Australian range (on the invasion front), dispersal is primarily effected by adults hopping large distances (up to about 55km per year), in relatively straight lines. Cane toads in northern Australia are thus the fastest moving anurans yet recorded.
This remarkable dispersal ability appears to be the result of strong selection operating on toads in the invasion front over the last seventy years (Philips et al. 2006).
Road vehicles: Cane toads have been transported in Australia by large freight trucks or 'road trains' (Sydney Morning Herald, 2002).
Water currents: Free-swimming cane toad tadpoles are liable to be swept away during flash floods.
Pathway CausesTop of page
Pathway VectorsTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
ImpactTop of page
Threatened SpeciesTop of page
|Threatened Species||Conservation Status||Where Threatened||Mechanism||References||Notes|
|Erinna newcombi (Newcomb's snail)||VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable); USA ESA listing as threatened species||Hawaii||Predation||US Fish and Wildlife Service (2006)|
|Peltophryne lemur (Puerto Rican crested toad)||CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as threatened species||Puerto Rico||Predation||US Fish and Wildlife Service (1992)|
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Negatively impacts human health
- Negatively impacts animal health
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Threat to/ loss of endangered species
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Difficult/costly to control
UsesTop of page
In the past, cane toads were introduced as a biological control agent for insect pests of sugarcane and other crops.
Bufotenine toxin produced by the cane toad is used as an aphrodisiac and hair-restorer in Japan. In mainland China it is used to lower the heart rate of patients undergoing cardiac surgery (Musgrave, 1996). The toxin is used by South American Indians on hunting arrows. The toxin is sometimes used as a narcotic by some people (Lever, 2001).
Cane toads were used for pregnancy testing in humans. A woman's urine was injected subcutaneously into the lymph glands of a male toad, resulting in spermatazoa becoming present in the toad's urine if the woman was pregnant (Berra, 1998 in Lever, 2001).
Uses ListTop of page
Drugs, stimulants, social uses
- Miscellaneous drugs, stimulants and social uses
- Biological control
- Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
Physical: Cane toads can be excluded from garden ponds and dams by a 50cm high barrier, such as a thick hedge or a wire mesh fence. Toads may be killed humanely by putting them inside a plastic bag or container and placing them in a freezer (Brandt and Mazzotti, 1990).
Biological: In 1994, the CSIRO Division of Wildlife and Ecology (Australia) was assessing the pathogenicity and specificity of viruses against cane toads. Scientists at the CSIRO Animal Health Laboratory in Victoria have been searching for biological controls of cane toads and in 2001 they began investigating gene technology as a mechanism of control. Environment Australia have launched a project for the development of a cane toad biological control. The aim is to develop a self disseminating viral vector to disrupt the development of the toad. Scientists at the University of Adelaide (Australia) have isolated a sex pheromone in a native Australian frog; they hope that a similar pheromone will be found in cane toads that could be used to disrupt the breeding cycle. These are long term solutions.
Scientists at Sydney University have identified a parasitic worm that attacks the cane toads' lungs, stunting their growth and, in most cases, killing them. They believe the parasite has the potential to reduce toad populations dramatically.
BibliographyTop of page
Aguirre, W. and Poss, S. G., 1999. Bufo marinus. Non-Indigenous species in the Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem.
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Bomford, M., 2003. Risk Assessment for the Import and Keeping of Exotic Vertebrates in Australia. Bureau of Rural Sciences, Canberra. http://www.feral.org.au/feral_documents/PC12803.pdf
Brandt, Laura A., Mazzotti, Frank J. 1990. Marine toads (Bufo marinus), University of Florida - Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/UW/UW04600.pdf
Breuil, M. & Ibéné, B. 2004. Les Hylides invasifs dans les Antilles françaises et le peuplement batrachologique naturel. Bull. Soc. Herpetol. Fr, 10 p.
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ReferencesTop of page
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ContributorsTop of page
Principal sources: Lever, C. 2001. The Cane Toad: the history and ecology of a successful colonist. Westbury Publishing, West Yorkshire. 230pp.
Gautherot, J., 2000. Bufo marinus. 2001 James Cook University.
Distribution MapsTop of page
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CABI Summary Records
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