Cane toads have tough, leathery skin with a distinctive warty appearance. Usually grey, brown, reddish-brown or yellow in colour with a pale underbelly. Pronounced bony ridge above nostril and venom-producing gland behind the ear (behind the eye). Juveniles have smooth dark skin with darker blotches and bars. Cane toads sit upright and move in short rapid hops that can help distinguish them from other species. Average-sized adults are 10-15 cm long
Cane Toad tadpoles are shiny black on top and have a plain dark belly with a short thin tail. They are smaller (less than 3.5 cm) and often gather in huge numbers in shallow waters.
Cane Toad eggs are laid in long strings of transparent jelly enclosing double trows of black eggs. The spawn tangles in dense masses around water plants.
Adults are most active during the night (nocturnal) during the warm months of the year. During the day, or in cold and dry weather they take shelter in moist crevices and hollows. Juveniles are often active during the day and can be seen in dense clusters.
Males call with a continuous warble, not unlike the sound of a small petrol engine running. Calling peaks in January and finishes by March. Males have a very distinctive call likened to a motor running or ‘brrrrr’ sounds.
Females may lay 8,000 – 35,000 eggs at a time, and produce two clutches per year.
What to Observe
- The appearance of eggs or tadpoles
ClimateWatch Science Advisor
Climate change is expected to alter habitat structures, particularly wetland areas that amphibians rely on to complete part of their lifecycle. Monitoring of this invasive species is needed as climate change will aid the spread of noxious pests such as the cane toad. Climate models predict that as the weather heats up, cane toads will go in search of suitable habitats and expand their range.
Help scientists answer the question: "How are our animals, plants and ecosystems responding to climate change?"
When To Look
All year round. Adults can be readily seen during the night, near bright lights that attract nocturnal insects.
Note: ClimateWatch is looking for any changes in the timing of seasonal events so remember to keep a lookout all year!
Where To Look
Wetlands, open forest, grasslands and well-watered yards and gardens. This species thrives in disturbed habitat and man-made environments (i.e. grazing lands and suburban parks)
Note: ClimateWatch is looking for any changes outside of their known ranges so remember to keep a lookout beyond these regions too!
The map below displays the accumulated observations of these species as reported by ClimateWatch observers, together with the layer showing how the range of the species might change between now and 2085, with orange areas indicating where the species might disappear, and green areas where the species range might expand.
- NSW Government 2018, Australian Museum, Animal species: Cane toad
- International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017-3
- Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) 2018, Australia’s species; Rhinella marina:Cane Toad
- Queensland Government 2018, Queensland Museum Network, Animals of Queensland; Frogs; Cane Toad
- Australian Government 2018, Feralscan.org
- Experts consulted: ClimateWatch Science Advisory Panel
Toads can be distinguished by their bumpy skin, short forelimbs and poison glands behind their eyes. Many toad species also crawl rather than hop.
The Giant Frog (Cyclorana australis) is most likely confused with the exotic Cane Toad in western Queensland and northern Western Australia but the Giant Frog lacks prominent brow ridges and is a burrowing species.
Did You Know?
- The species was introduced to Australia in 1935, to north tropical Queensland to control sugar cane pests
- Cane toads can poison pets and injure humans with their toxins
- The largest female measured in QLD was 24cm long and weighed 1.3kg!