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Friday, February 3, 2023

At Almost Six Pounds, Toadzilla May Be the Largest Toad Ever Found

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A park ranger holds a giant toad by the hind legs.
Park rangers found Toadzilla while conducting track work. Queensland Department of Environment and Science

Park rangers in Conway National Park in Queensland, Australia, stumbled upon a massive cane toad that clocked in at nearly six pounds—and it may be the heaviest toad ever discovered.

While conducting track work in the park, the rangers stopped their vehicle to avoid a snake and noticed the colossal amphibian.

“I reached down and grabbed the cane toad and couldn’t believe how big and heavy it was,” ranger Kylee Gray says in a statement. “We believe it’s female due to the size.”

The typical cane toad weighs around three pounds and spans four to six inches, but the recently found behemoth, dubbed “Toadzilla,” tipped the scales at 5.95 pounds, according to the statement from Queensland’s Department of Environment and Science. The current Guinness World Record for the heaviest toad belongs to Prinsen, a cane toad owned as a pet in Sweden who weighed 5.81 pounds in 1991.

Native to Central and South America, cane toads are invasive and damaging in Australia’s environment. In 1935, the country’s government introduced about 2,400 cane toads to Queensland to eat cane beetles, which were destroying sugar cane crops. Releasing the toads was a risky move—at the time, researchers knew neither how the toads would affect the ecosystem, nor even if they would eat the beetles, according to the National Museum of Australia.

The experiment did not go as planned—the toads had no discernible effect on the beetle population, and the amphibians have now multiplied and spread rapidly throughout much of the country. They now number in the millions, and they are expanding their territory to the west at a rate of about 25 to 37 miles per year, according to the museum.

Australia has no natural predators or diseases that can control cane toad numbers. The toads also release a poison from glands above their shoulders that can kill animals that try to eat them.

toad in dirt appears about 1.5 times length of pen
Toadzilla compared to the size of a pen Queensland Department of Environment and Science

The toads themselves, on the other hand, will consume nearly anything. A cane toad of Toadzilla’s size “will eat anything it can fit into its mouth,” Gray says in the statement. They’ll consume insects such as grasshoppers, caterpillars and ants, as well as small mammals, birds, lizards and other frogs.

Cane toads can live in the wild for up to 15 years, and females might lay 8,000 to 30,000 eggs at a time. Thanks to the lack of threats they face, as well as their dietary indiscretion and reproductive prowess, the toads have thrived in Australia. Their poison has led to local extinctions for some predators, and they’ve outcompeted native species, harming ecosystems in the northern part of the country.

Because of the damage the species can cause, Toadzilla was euthanized, the Queensland Department of Environment and Science said in a tweet.

“A female cane toad like potentially Toadzilla would lay up to 35,000 eggs. So their capacity to reproduce is quite staggering,” senior park ranger Barry Nolan, a colleague of Gray’s, tells Reuters’ James Redmayne and Joseph Campbell. “All parts of the cane toad’s breeding cycle are poisonous to Australian native species, so prevention is a big part of how we need to manage them.”

Toadzilla’s body has been sent to the Queensland Museum for further study, writes CNN’s Hafsa Khalil.

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