Monday, March 20, 2006

Animal of the Week March 20, 2006 -- Caned oats

Hello Ani-freaks!

If you've been in the Northern Territory of Australia over the past week you may have found yourself instructed to take up a stout stick and whack this week's animal Bufo marinus (cane toad). These toads are rapidly spreading across Australia to the detriment of much of the continent's wildlife, and state sponsored efforts to raise awareness of the problem culminated in "Not in my backyard day" on March 14, for which residents were encouraged to report sightings of these amphibians. The Federal MP Dave "Practical" Tollner suggested that residents should hit any cane toads they found with "golf clubs, cricket bats, you know, lumps of wood", Australians interviewed seemed keen on this idea. The RSPCA on the other hand recommended the toads should be killed by covering them in haemorrhoid cream (induces a coma apparently) and putting them in the freezer—yeah right, because the concerned citizens really want freezers filled with anusol covered toads!

101 cane toads were introduced to Queensland in 1935 as a biological control of a beetle pest of sugarcane plantations. However, the toads quickly realised that Australia was full of more appealing foods than beetles and they set off, spreading throughout Queensland, Northern Territory, and New South Wales. They are now nearing the outskirts of Darwin and of Sydney. A recent study showed that the toads that had travelled furthest from the 1935 site of introduction had the longest legs. The researchers proposed that this was a sign of evolution in action (a long legged form colonising new lands and a short legged stay at home form), French gourmands proposed a picnic.

Voracious in their feeding habits, cane toads not only pose a threat to the animals small enough for them to eat, sometimes exceeding 2 kg in weight they make an appealing snack for monitor lizards, snakes, and dingoes, but the toxin they secrete through their skin and from two large glands on their shoulders can kill most predators, including crocodiles.

Cane toad males have inactive ovaries, if their testes are injured the ovaries come into action and they become female; moreover, the males can be used as a pregnancy test kit, if you inject them with the urine of a pregnant woman they will produce sperm in their own urine.


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