A toad with an extra limb.
A toad with an extra limb.

Mutant toads discovered in Gladstone

A CONCERNING number of deformed cane toads with extra limbs and missing digits have been found by researchers in Central Queensland.

CQUniversity researcher Dr Scott Wilson has examined more than 6000 toads in CQ, most from Gladstone, and said close to 10% of those had abnormalities.

In a normal toad population, Dr Wilson said only 1% or 2% of the amphibians had defects.

The research fellow, based in Gladstone, said the results of the year-long study were concerning because up to half are believed to have been caused by chemicals in the environment.

Dr Wilson said the porus skin that frogs and toads had allowed them to work like a canary in a coal mine.

Because the amphibians adapt to their environment, Dr Wilson said the results from Gladstone showed there was something in the Central Queensland environment that was causing bizarre abnormalities in toads.

Of those caught in Gladstone that Dr Wilson has studied, he found one in every 10 had missing or extra digits and limbs and some with eye or skeletal irregularity.

“Frogs and toads are indicators for the health of the environment generally,” Dr Wilson said.

“They’re like the canary in the coal mine. If you’re seeing effects in frogs and toads then that might tell you there’s something wrong in that environment.”

Dr Wilson said the next step in his research was to investigate what was causing the defects, which he said could be run-off into water supply or possibly toxins in the air.

So far Dr Wilson’s studies have been based at CQUniversity’s Gladstone campus with support from Gladstone Regional Council and Conservation Volunteers Australia.

He hopes later this year to extend his research to include Rockhampton and other centres in Central Queensland.

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