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Giant toads under study at Savannah River Site lab

Monday, June 17, 2013 3:46 PM
Last updated Tuesday, June 18, 2013 7:40 AM
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Savannah River Ecology Lab is host to some unusual summer guests: giant, invasive toads.

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Caitlin Rumrill, a University of Georgia graduate student working out of the Savannah River Ecology Lab, holds some of the giant toads, or "cane toads," she is using in a research project to determine the uptake of heavy metals as copper in the environment.   SREL/SPECIAL
SREL/SPECIAL
Caitlin Rumrill, a University of Georgia graduate student working out of the Savannah River Ecology Lab, holds some of the giant toads, or "cane toads," she is using in a research project to determine the uptake of heavy metals as copper in the environment.

The huge amphibians, which grow as large as dinner plates, are the focus of University of Georgia graduate student Caitlin Rumrill’s research into how the species reacts to heavy metals.

The creatures, also called “marine toads” or “cane toads,” are native to South and Central America, but have become established as an invasive species in many areas, including Florida.

That’s where Rumrill, a Massachusetts native, went to collect the 70 giant toads needed for her project.

“We got some of them riding around on a golf course,” she said. “The biggest one came out of a lady’s yard where she was feeding a bunch of cats. The toads just come up and eat the cat food.”

At the ecology lab within the Savannah River Site nuclear complex, the giant toads are kept in a secure area, inside a greenhouse – and under lock and key.

The species is problematic because it has toxic skin that can kill cats and dogs, has few predators and tends to eat almost anything, including native toads and frogs that get in its way.

“They compete for resources and available space, which is an issue for other amphibians,” Rumrill said.

Her project, which includes comparitive studies of native Southern toads, is part of a research effort to gauge the giant toads’ ability to survive in areas impacted by contamination, especially metals.

“I’m focusing on copper,” she said. “I’m interested in whether the invasive cane toad is more or less tolerant of this metal than a native toad.”

The theory is that the resilient giant toad is more tolerant to heavy metal stresses than native species. “That might be one of the reasons behind their success,” she said.

Although copper is a necessary trace metal, and is widely used in fertilizer and construction, even a slightly elevated concentration can lead to health effects, she said.

Her project is expected to take about a year.

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SCEagle Eye
895
Points
SCEagle Eye 06/17/13 - 04:27 pm
3
1
gobble up nuke waste?

If they are tolerant to environmental stress, can these big fellows eat up some of that high-level waste out at SRS? With the budget being severely whacked, all options should be on the table. Gators in Par Pond have not been up to the task so looks like it's up to the cane toads to take on the mission that DOE seems to be backing away from.

Just My Opinion
5470
Points
Just My Opinion 06/17/13 - 05:25 pm
4
0
Hey, didn't I see a movie

Hey, didn't I see a movie once on "Shock Theater" with Count Justin Sane about these big ol'jagunda toads?? Didn't the toads grow larger and finally ate Cleveland??
Ahhh, good old Shock Theater! Sure miss it. Don't miss that pervert Count, but I do miss ST!

Radwaste
400
Points
Radwaste 06/17/13 - 07:00 pm
4
1
About nuclear waste...

Eagle Eye,

The waste doesn't go away when it gets into a lifeform, be it plant or animal.
Nuclear waste is NOT chemical waste. Isotopes remain radioactive, with all the deleterious effects on nearby living matter, wherever it is found, no matter if it is burned or frozen.
That's why immobilization in glass-filed stainless canisters is being done at DWPF.

Even heavy metals, no matter how these frogs metabolize it, doesn't go "away". Bioremediation of chemical waste uses processes to bind materials in insoluable and/or non-poisonous form, but nothing is destroyed. Nothing goes "away".

nocnoc
41399
Points
nocnoc 06/17/13 - 07:40 pm
4
0
The pictures look smaller

The pictures look smaller

than what we had in our Koi Pond.

Dixieman
14445
Points
Dixieman 06/17/13 - 09:55 pm
4
0
As seen on Fox...

They have been trying to mate with the three-eyed carp found in the discharge lake for Mr. Burns' nuclear power plant in The Simpsons.

SCEagle Eye
895
Points
SCEagle Eye 06/17/13 - 09:37 pm
3
0
MOX munchers?

Well, I still cling to my wild dream that these toads could eat DWPF canisters for a snack and long for more. I'm betting once the cesium loading goes up in the canisters they will hop in and go to town, long before there is any chance that the canisters are dumped at WIPP. Talk about no need for a third DWPF storage facility - I think we may have found the solution! Crunch, crunch goes the nuclear waste, which will simply vanish in those robust digestive tracts. Ooops, I'm getting getting this all confused with the MOX program, which simply makes billions of dollars vanish right out of our pockets and that plutonium sure doesn't go away. (OK, I have no pity on this invasive species...)

Little Lamb
45378
Points
Little Lamb 06/17/13 - 11:04 pm
2
0
LOL

That is my favorite comment I have ever seen you post, SCEagle Eye!

:-)

Dixieman
14445
Points
Dixieman 06/18/13 - 06:51 am
3
0
But...

...sooner or later these toad dudes are going to have to excrete, and where will their waste go? Yucca Mountain?

nocnoc
41399
Points
nocnoc 06/18/13 - 08:00 am
2
0
"Dinner Plate size Toads" as

"Dinner Plate size Toads"

as the E-headline reads.

Imagine Frog legs that glow under a candle light dinner for 2 .
What a romantic picture.

deestafford
26608
Points
deestafford 06/18/13 - 08:14 am
2
0
Can we eat 'em?

If there legs are big like a bull frog's we should get some good eatin' out of 'em.

Humble Angela
41338
Points
Humble Angela 06/18/13 - 08:15 am
3
0
Actually, burning Pu in a MOX
Unpublished

Actually, burning Pu in a MOX reactor is the only thing that DOES make the Pu "go away."

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