Leaky Skin Protects Cane Toads When Sloughing

Posted on June 10, 2017

Asian common toad sloughing

Cane toads have to shed their skin periodically to replace worn out skin cells. Researchers from University of Queensland have found that the skin of cane toads becomes slightly leaky during the moulting process. This helps the toad maintain vital internal balances of salt and water.

The Cane toad (Rhinella marina) is native to South and Central America. It was introduced to Australia in 1935 to help control the cane beetle. This was a mistake as the toads have become a major environmental problem with a huge population in excess of 200 million.

Nicholas Wu, a PhD student in UQ's School of Biological Sciences' ECO-Lab, says in a statement, "Our study showed that the skin becomes slightly leaky during the shedding process, allowing salts to leak out of the skin and water to flow in. To make sure their internal salt level is balanced, toads increase their active re-uptake of salts through the skin, and increase the number of transport proteins responsible for the uptake of the salts."

The photograph above shows an Asian common toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) sloughing. This toad has also become a problem in Australia. A research paper on the sloughing process was published here in the journal, Journal of Experimental Biology.

Image: Jasmine Vink