19 October 2010

But it's still a toad!

Citizen Cane Toad
Strewth, Sheila, but there's a bonzer lot of Cane Toads around in the Northern Territories & Queensland. They are one of the most ecologically hated invasive species in the world, and they breed like Billy-O. Researchers studying their evolution have been carrying out some interesting experiments [BBC] which appear to verify the "Olympic Village Effect". The paper is published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, and (perhaps unsurprisingly) finds that toads at the outer reaches of the invasion range (i.e. the pioneers into new territory) are the fastest hoppers and the fastest reproducers - but this effect is *genetically* heritable - they pass it on to their tadpoles.
What's more, this feature appears to be very common in evolutionary biology when we are dealing with invasive species - it may even be the rule. It's obvious when you think about it - the fastest hoppers are going to be the first to reach a new area, so they'll get busy and colonise it before anyone else comes along. Then at the outer reaches of *that* area, it'll still be populated with the fastest of the fast, so we get a selective pressure at the outer reaches (effectively) for the best hoppers, perhaps at the expense of other adaptations.

Ribbit. Hat tip to Graham.


  1. I definitely want to read more on this blog soon. BTW, pretty nice design your blog has, but don’t you think it should be changed from time to time?

  2. I think the big scientific question this morning, is "how scientific are the quizzes on FaceBook?" Because one said that I'd survive a horror film, and I want to check that my odds are this good.

    Remember - I teach age 11-16.

    Being in a horror film is plausible.

    Maybe even probable!

  3. The quiz operated under the assumption that I had an M-16.

    All I have are detention slips, and an slightly crazed squint in my left eye.

    Are those suitable replacements for an M-16