In 1935, an Australian government agency imported 101 specimens of the Central and South American Cane Toad in an attempt to manage insects that were decimating sugar-cane harvests. In Australia the Cane Toad adapted and evolved with abandon, voraciously consuming native wildlife and killing predators with its lethal skin toxin. Today, hundreds of millions of Cane Toads have spread across the northern part of Australia and continue to move westward. The humble Cane Toad has become a national villain.
Cane Toad Wars chronicles the work of intrepid scientist Rick Shine, who has been documenting the toad’s ecological impact in Australia and seeking to buffer it. Despite predictions of devastation in the wake of advancing toad hordes, the author’s research reveals a more complex and nuanced story. A firsthand account of a perplexing ecological problem and an important exploration of how we measure evolutionary change and ecological resilience, this book makes an effective case for the value of long-term natural history research in informing conservation practice.
Rick Shine is Professor of Biology at the University of Sydney. He has published more than a thousand scientific papers on the ecology of reptiles and amphibians, and he has received a host of national and international awards for his research.
“Cane Toad Wars, the spellbinding story of the invasion of Cane Toads in Australia, provides a wealth of scientific information, chronicles interactions between scientists and ‘toad-busting citizens,’ and attests to the value of collaboration and long-term fieldwork. Shine’s book reads like a riveting mystery novel—except that it is based on compelling science.”—Marty Crump, author of Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog, Adder's Fork and Lizard's Leg: The Lore and Mythology of Amphibians and Reptiles
“A remarkable tale of research discovery and ingenuity, Cane Toad Wars is the riveting story of how a star academic biologist learns to take on real-world problems. Rick Shine’s writing is engaging and occasionally hilarious, and the reader comes away with a newfound appreciation for the complexities of biodiversity conservation.”—Jonathan B. Losos, author of Improbable Destinies: Fate, Chance, and the Future of Evolution
“The 1935 arrival of Cane Toads in Australia marked the beginning of an astonishing story about the impact of alien species entering new environments. Cane Toad Wars is a captivating account of this infamous invasion. The tremendous achievements of Rick Shine’s research group in tackling every aspect of Cane-Toad biology is a testament to the power of natural history and the detailed understanding it yields.”—Scott Keogh, Head of Ecology and Evolution, The Australian National University
“A brilliant and lucid work on how the toad took Australia—and how we can take the country back—by the master of toad warfare, Professor Shine.”—Tim Flannery, author of The Future Eaters: An Ecological History of the Australasian Lands and People
“With clarity and charisma, Rick Shine weaves a wonderful narrative of Cane Toads in Australia—from their catastrophic introduction to new methods of toad control (eavesdropping on the tadpoles' own chemical communication). Along the way he reshapes Darwin’s theories. A must-read on why science should influence conservation, public opinion, and political decisions.”—Mats Olsson, University of Gothenburg, Sweden