Conditioning a goanna – yucky cane toad!

Remember when Goanna didn’t have to worry about nothin’ changing, at least not in a hurry anyway… Well it’s not 1982 anymore buddy! There are some serious changings a happening for old Goanna… not the least the INVASION OF THIS GUY!

We’re talking cane toads – a scourge on the Australian landscape. We all know the story, no need to re-hash it here. Lets just say biocontrol has come along way since the 1935.

Problem is though, as these toxic toads spread across the landscape, more and more native species are running into this new prey item…. Hmmmm what’s that? Dunno, let’s eat it….DEAD. This is a serious threatening process.

However, can we train those native species out there in the wild to say, Hmmmm what’s that? Hang-on a minute. I don’t think I should be eating that! Thats what Georgia and her colleagues set out to find.

So up north in Kimberly, the team got out ahead of the cane toad invasion front and went about training the yellow-spotted monitors (floodplain goanna / Gundulla). They offered up juvenile cane toads (toxic but not fatal) and some took the meal (training complete) and others didn’t (untrained). In short, when the toad invasion hit, those that had the training survived way better than those that did not. It’s a bit of a good new story.

For the actual science of this story you should definitely read the paper and contact the authors if you have any questions

Ward-Fear G, Pearson DJ, Brown GP, Balanggarra Rangers & Shine R (2016) Ecological immunization: in situ training of free-ranging predatory lizards reduces their vulnerability to invasive toxic preyBiology Letters 12: 20150863.

K!E#10 by Luke S. O’Loughlin


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