Weed­killers linked to even dead­lier cane toads

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - CHRIS HON­NERY

THE cane toad is mu­tat­ing into an even dead­lier crea­ture thanks to a com­mon house­hold weed­killer.

Toad tad­poles ex­posed to chem­i­cals found in weed­killer Roundup have in­creased lev­els of bu­fa­dieno­lides – a toxic chem­i­cal used to ward off preda­tors – as adults. The toad stores these tox­ins glands on its shoul­ders, in which it can use to de­liver poi­sonous blasts at preda­tors.

In a new study, Hun­gar­ian re­searchers said it could mean Aus­tralia’s cane toad ( right) is be­com­ing even more deadly to its preda­tors, re­sult­ing in fur­ther dam­age to the ecosys­tem.

The study looked at the ef­fects of ex­pos­ing tad­poles to the chem­i­cal glyphosate over a pe­riod of nine to 61 days.

Au­thor Veronika Bokony, from the Hun­gar­ian Academy of Sciences, said the re­sults re­vealed pes­ti­cide ex­po­sure could have un­ex­pected ef­fects on other or­gan­isms.

“Pes­ti­cide pol­lu­tion might ex­ac­er­bate the prob­lem of in­va­sive toxic species,” she said.

“For ex­am­ple, in Aus­tralia, the sur­vival of na­tive tad­poles is re­duced by poi­son­ing from in­ges­tion of toxic cane toad eggs, and preda­tors suf­fer dras­tic mor­tal­ity due to in­gest­ing … cane toads.”

The RSPCA said large doses of cane toad tox­ins for dogs or cats can be fa­tal. The an­i­mal wel­fare or­gan­i­sa­tion urges pet own­ers to seek med­i­cal advice if their pet ex­pe­ri­ences symp­toms such as vom­it­ing, dif­fi­culty breath­ing, foaming at the mouth or di­lated pupils.

The Hun­gar­ian re­searchers have called for more stud­ies to be con­ducted around weed­killer chem­i­cals and the chem­i­cal de­fences in bu­fa­dieno­lides.

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