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Island-hopping toxic toads threaten iconic Komodo dragons

11 / 10 / 2017, Mongabaycom News

On the islands of Wallacea, one of the world’s hottest biodiversity hotspots, a quiet yet deadly invasion is underway. The poisonous Asian common toad’s (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) journey from island to island has left a trail of dead native species in its wake. If this island-hopping is left unchecked it could lay waste to one of the world’s last remaining ecological gems and threaten iconic species like the Komodo dragon, warn scientists in a study published in Global Change Biology. Wallacea is a collection of thousands of islands that lie between the Asian mainland and Australia, including Indonesia’s Sulawesi, the Komodo islands and the Moluccas (or the Spice Islands). Around 40 percent of the birds and 65 percent of the amphibians of Wallacea are not found anywhere else, with some species found only on single islands, according to the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund. Most of the islands don’t have native toads, says Sean Reilly, lead author of the study. That’s why the Asian common toad’s invasion is such a problem. The invasive toad is toxic, packing its poison into two glands behind its eyes; when pressure is applied to them, a thick, creamy goop oozes out. Native species that haven’t co-evolved with the toads can succumb to this poison pretty quickly, Reilly said. The Asian common toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) packs toxins in glands behind its eyes. It can be deadly to species that haven’t co-evolved with it. Photo courtesy of Franco Andreone. While conducting the study, Reilly and his team visited…

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