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Oz cane toads stretch their legs

Invasion force's limbs getting longer

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There is chilling evidence that cane toads in Australia have responded to the challenge of conquering vast tracts of the Lucky Country by simply developing longer legs, Reuters reports.

Researchers at the University of Sydney reckon the adaption gives toads an advantage in moving swiftly into new areas in search of better food supplies. Researcher Richard Shine told Nature: "We find that toads with longer legs can not only move faster and are the first to arrive in new areas, but also that those at the front have longer legs than toads in older populations."

The toads "at the front" in this case - and the subject of the study - have penetrated to within 37 miles of the city of Darwin. The species was introduced into into Australia from Hawaii in the 1930s to fight the spread of cane beetles. Since then, it has advanced across Oz at up to 30 miles per year while swelling its population to 100m individuals.

The University of Sydney team warned that measures should be taken to stem the tide of cane toads "before [they] evolve into even more dangerous adversaries". ®

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