Study

Ecological immunization: in situ training of free-ranging predatory lizards reduces their vulnerability to invasive toxic prey

  • Published source details Ward-Fear G., Pearson D.J., Brown G.P., Rangers B. & Shine R. (2016) Ecological immunization: in situ training of free-ranging predatory lizards reduces their vulnerability to invasive toxic prey. Biology Letters, 12, 20150863.

Actions

This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Use conditioned taste aversion to prevent carnivorous reptiles from eating toxic invasive cane toads

Action Link
Reptile Conservation
  1. Use conditioned taste aversion to prevent carnivorous reptiles from eating toxic invasive cane toads

    A replicated, controlled study in 2013–2015 in two tropical floodplain sites in Western Australia, Australia (Ward-Fear et al. 2016) found that conditioned taste aversion training of yellow-spotted monitors Varanus panoptes using live cane toads Rhinella marina resulted in higher survival of goannas at one of two sites compared to those receiving no conditioning. After conditioning, goannas were less likely to eat another cane toad (1% ate a toad) compared to before conditioning (52% ate a toad). Conditioned goanna had higher survival than unconditioned goannas in the southern site (conditioned: 40% survived 400 days; unconditioned: 0% survived 200 days), but no difference was found in the northern site (conditioned: 50% survived 300 days; unconditioned: 50% survived 300 days, 20% survived 400 days). The southern site was invaded by large numbers of toads, whereas toads arrived later and in smaller numbers to the northern site. Three months prior to the toad invasion, free-ranging goannas were exposed to small live toads (greater than 25g, 30–70 mm snout-vent length) with venom squeezed out. Goannas either bit the toad (conditioned; 22 goannas) or ignored it (unconditioned; 44 goannas). Goannas were monitored in the southern (47 goannas) and northern (19 goannas) sites from November 2013 to May 2015.

    (Summarised by: Maggie Watson, William Morgan)

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