Shifts in the foraging tactics of crocodiles following invasion by toxic prey

Abhilasha Aiyer, Richard Shine, Ruchira Somaweera, Tina Bell, Georgia Ward-Fear

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Biological invasions can modify the behaviour of vulnerable native species in subtle ways. For example, native predators may learn or evolve to reduce foraging in conditions (habitats, times of day) that expose them to a toxic invasive species. In tropical Australia, freshwater crocodiles (Crocodylus johnstoni) are often fatally poisoned when they ingest invasive cane toads (Rhinella marina). The risk may be greatest if toads are seized on land, where a predator cannot wash away the toxins before they are absorbed into its bloodstream. Hence, toad invasion might induce crocodiles to forage in aquatic habitats only, foregoing terrestrial hunting. To test this idea, we conducted standardised trials of bait presentation to free-ranging crocodiles in sites with and without invasive toads. As anticipated, crocodiles rapidly learned to avoid consuming toads, and shifted to almost exclusively aquatic foraging.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1267
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


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