The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Rhinella marina
Rhinella marina
(Cane Toad)
Native Transplant
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Rhinella marina (Linnaeus, 1758)

Common name: Cane Toad

Synonyms and Other Names: marine toad, giant toad, bufo toad

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Rhinella marina is an enormous, warty terrestrial toad (bufonid) that can weigh up to 1.5 kg (3.3 lbs) (Conant and Collins, 1998).  Large individuals sitting on roadways are easily mistaken for boulders (Lee, 1996). Adult males have more robust forelimbs than adult females (Lee, 2001). These massive brown or dark-mottled toads have a pair of enormous, deeply pitted parotoid glands that produce bufotoxins, which act as neurotoxins, each extending from just behind the eye, far down the side of the body, (Conant and Collins, 1998; Powell et al., 1998; Lever, 2001). The pupils of the eye are horizontal and the irises golden, and the Cane Toad has distinct ridges running from above their eyes down the snout (Conant and Collins, 1998). The tadpoles are black dorsally, with a belly that is silvery white with black spots (Ashton and Ashton, 1988; Lee, 1996; Altig et al. 1998). Tadpoles of R. marina are illustrated in Lee (1996), McKeown (1996), Lever (2001), Savage (2002), and Duellman (2005).

The call is a low-pitched, staccato trill that is slow and often likened to the sound of a distant tractor (Conant and Collins, 1998; Lever, 2001; Savage, 2002). Recordings of the calls of R. marina are available on several CDs (Library of Natural Sounds, 1996; Bogert, 1998; Rivero, 1998).

Cane toads are commonly illustrated and appear in an enormous variety of publications (Behler and King, 1979; Ashton and Ashton, 1988; Bartlett, 1994; Zug et al., 2001; Beltz, 2005).

Size: 100-238 mm SVL (snout-vent length; measurement from snout to base of tailbone). Individuals found in the U.S. rarely exceed 178 mm SVL (Conant and Collins, 1998; Lever, 2001)

Native Range: Cane toads are indigenous to much of South America north through Central America, and Mexico northward to extreme southern Texas (Campbell, 1999; Conant and Collins, 1998; Duellman, 1999a, 2005; Duellman and Sweet, 1999; Dixon, 2000).

US auto-generated map Legend USGS Logo
Alaska auto-generated map
Hawaii auto-generated map
Caribbean auto-generated map
Puerto Rico &
Virgin Islands
Guam auto-generated map
Guam Saipan
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: The first occurance record in Florida, was 200 R. marina that were intentionally introduced to Canal Point and Belle Glade, Palm Beach County, prior to 1936 (Lobdell, 1936, 1937),

Several introductions of R. marina to Louisiana have been made, many prior to 1935, one of which could have been on the Grand Terre Islands (Jefferson and Plaquemines Parishes) (Easteal, 1981; Lever, 2001).

Rhinella marina were first introduced to Oahu, Hawaii in 1932 (Pemberton, 1933; Oliver, 1949; Lever, 2001).  Descendants of this original introduction were subsequently spread, intentionally, throughout the Hawaiian Islands (Oliver, 1949; Oliver and Shaw, 1953; Easteal, 1981; McKeown, 1996; Lever, 2001, 2003).

A variety of introductions of R. marina have been made to several United States possessions, territories, trusts, and commonwealths including Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam (including Cocos Island) and Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and Republic of Palau (Schwartz and Henderson, 1991; McCoid and Kleberg, 1995; Powell et al., 1996; Lever, 2001, 2003).

Cane toads have been introduced throughout much of the Caribbean including Antigua, Barbados, Cuba, Dominica, Grenada and Carriacou Island, Guadeloupe, Grand Cayman Island, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica (including Cabarita Island), Marie Galante, Martinique, Montserrat, Nevis, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Tortola, and Isla de Guanaja (Honduras) (Powell et al., 1996, 1999; Censky and Kaiser, 1999;  Lever, 2001, 2003; Burton and Echternacht, 2003; Powell and Henderson, 2003; Paice, 2005).

In the Pacific, R. marina have been introduced to Australia, Japan, Taiwan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Cook Islands, Micronesia, Fiji Islands, Kiribati, Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Solomon Islands, Republic of Palau and Tuvalu (Matsui, 1975; Sengoku, 1979; Lewis, 1989; Tyler, 1999; Lever, 2001, 2003; Beltz, 2005).

Other worldwide introductions include Bermuda, Egypt, Mauritius, Thailand, Korea, and Diego Garcia of the Chagos Archipelago (Easteal, 1981, 1986; Lever, 2001, 2003; Wingate, [2002]).

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Rhinella marina are found here.

StateYear of earliest observationYear of last observationTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
Florida1936201828Big Cypress Swamp; Caloosahatchee; Cape Canaveral; Charlotte Harbor; Crystal-Pithlachascotee; Everglades; Florida Bay-Florida Keys; Florida Southeast Coast; Hillsborough; Kissimmee; Lake Okeechobee; Lower St. Johns; Manatee; Northern Okeechobee Inflow; Oklawaha; Peace; Peace-Tampa Bay; Santa Fe; Sarasota Bay; Southern Florida; St. Andrew-St. Joseph Bays; St. Marys; Tampa Bay; Tampa Bay; Upper St. Johns; Vero Beach; Western Okeechobee Inflow; Withlacoochee
Hawaii193220176Hawaii; Kauai; Lanai; Maui; Molokai; Oahu
Louisiana193519351East Central Louisiana Coastal
Puerto Rico195120075Cibuco-Guajataca; Culebrinas-Guanajibo; Eastern Puerto Rico; Puerto Rican Islands; Southern Puerto Rico
Virgin Islands198220182St. Croix; St. John-St. Thomas

Table last updated 7/6/2018

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: In the wild, these large toads are nonselective, opportunistic carnivores that consume a wide variety of invertebrates, vertebrates (including other frogs and smaller R. marina), and carrion, occasionally supplementing their diet with plant matter (Oliver, 1955; Zug and Zug, 1979; Campbell, 1998; Meshaka et al., 2004; Hagman and Shine, 2008). In urban and suburban environments, R. marina living near human habitations will eat dog and cat food left outdoors for resident pets, along with a variety of household garbage including carrot peelings, lettuce, rutabagas, cooked rice, rotting avocados, and feces (Alexander, 1964; Ashton and Ashton, 1988; Savage, 2002; Meshaka et al., 2004). In the 1970s, J. Wiley (personal communication 2006) observed cane toads entering an open doorway to a restaurant in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, in order to feed on table scraps that had fallen beneath patrons’ tables. Patrons tossing scraps down to the toads encouraged this foraging behavior. In another unusual incident, a cane toad snapped up a lit cigarette butt with no noticeable negative effects (Lewis, 1989; Lever, 2001). While vision is the principle means of detecting prey, R. marina can use smell to detect immobile food items (Lever, 2001, 2003; Meshaka et al., 2004).

Rhinella marina reproduces at almost any time of the year unless the temperature is too cold, laying thousands or tens-of-thousands of eggs, encased in gelatinous strings, in any temporary or permanent body of water, including brackish waters (Zug and Zug, 1979; Schwartz and Henderson, 1991; Lever, 2001).  In Florida, these toads will opportunistically utilize new breeding sites created by hurricanes, often in urban environments (Meshaka, 1993, 2001; Meshaka et al., 2004). Their high tolerance to saline waters (Lever, 2001; Wingate, [2002]) may have given rise to their specific scientific name Rhinella marina (Lever, 2001).

Means of Introduction: Both in the U.S. and worldwide, R. marina is normally introduced intentionally in a misguided attempt to control insect agricultural pests, primarily in cane fields (Pemberton, 1933; King and Krakauer, 1966; Lewis, 1989; McCoid and Kleberg, 1995; Zweifel, 1998; Meshaka et al., 2004).  In Florida, intentional and accidental releases from animal importers also have occurred (King and Krakauer, 1966).  Those R. marina collected from Bay County, in the Florida Panhandle, escaped from a local zoo (Himes, 2007). Some nonindigenous cane toads released in Papua New Guinea were from animals used in laboratories for human pregnancy testing (Zug et al., 1975; Lever, 2001, 2003).

Status: Cane toads are established in  Florida  Hawaii,   Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam (including Cocos Island) and Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and Republic of Palau.

Most worldwide introductions have produced successfully established populations (Easteal, 1981, 1986; Brown et al., 2007) with the notable exceptions of Taiwan, Thailand, Korea, Egypt, Mauritius, Cuba, Dominica, Carabita Island of Jamaica, Cook Islands, and the Marshall Islands (Schwartz and Thomas, 1975; Schwartz and Henderson, 1991; Lever, 2003).  The most successfully established populations of nonindigenous R. marina are best described as Pan-Pacific and Pan-Caribbean.

Impact of Introduction: In many nonindigenous localities, such as Florida and Hawaii, the exact impact of R. marina on indigenous ecosystems remains unclear.  Pets that eat or bite cane toads become seriously ill from the milky venom (bufotoxins, which act as neurotoxins) contained within the massive parotoid glands and human poisonings are not unknown (Oliver, 1949; Ashton and Ashton, 1998; Lee, 1996; McCann et al., 1996; Lever, 2003; Beltz, 2005).  The complex toxic secretion from these glands can be squirted into the eyes when toads are handled roughly, causing intense pain and a potential medical emergency (Blair, 1947; Lewis, 1989; Lever, 2001).  The widely touted use of R. marina venom as a hallucinogen narcotic in the U. S. may be an urban myth, at least for this particular species of toad; it is difficult to determine what complex method would have to be devised to selectively neutralize some of the toxins so that it can be used as a hallucinogen (Lee, 1996; Lever, 2001; Beltz, 2005). However, some cultures utilize extracts from the venom to concoct traditional medicines (Crump, 2000; Beltz, 2005). Lee (1996) provides an extensive discussion on the toxicity and potential pharmacological properties of cane toad venom.

Large numbers of R. marina aggregate around artificial bee hives placed near ground level and eat domestic honey bees (Oliver, 1949).
Sizable breeding aggregations of chorusing males are a loud nuisance in Puerto Rico (Oliver, 1949).

Although North American predators that normally eat toads (bufonids) and their tadpoles may be adapted to dealing with such toxic meals, in areas such as Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Bermuda, where no indigenous bufonids occur, anuran predators can suffer ill effects or death (McCann et al., 1996; Greer, 1997; Crossland and Azevedo-Ramos, 1999; Davenport et al., 2001). The toxins found in the eggs and tadpoles can poison some but not all tadpole predators (Crossland and Azevedo-Ramos, 1999; Punzo and Lindstrom, 2001). The same may be true of indigenous Hawaiian predators; however, McKeown (1996) observed a Palea steindachneri (wattle-necked softshell), a nonindigenous turtle, eating a R. marina, and a similar observation was made of an indigenous opossum in Panama, Didelphis marsupialis, successfully consuming this bufonid with no ill effects (Laurance and Laurance, 2007).

In residential areas of Florida, R. marina may displace the native bufonid, Anaxyrus terrestris (Krakauer, 1968; Wilson and Porras, 1983).  It is probably the voracious predatory abilities of R. marina that may have the most serious impact upon indigenous wildlife (Zweifel, 1998); however, this aspect of its impact remains unstudied (McCann et al., 1996).  The nonindigenous tick, Amblyomma rotundatum, was introduced to Florida through parasitized R. marina, and the common dog hookworm, Aclyostoma caninum, was found in the feces of cane toads from Tampa (Oliver et al., 1993; Meshaka et al., 2004). Cane toad tadpoles in Florida, in combination with the presence of the nonindigenous Cuban Treefrog, Osteopilus septentrionalis, can negatively impact native tadpole species (Smith, 2005).

Remarks: Several authorities have provided morphological and taxonomic reviews or summaries of R. marina (Easteal, 1986; Collins and Taggart, 2002; Haas, 2003; Pauly et al., 2004; Pough et al., 2004; Bever, 2005; Pramuk, 2006; Chaparro et al., 2007). Frost et al. (2006) transferred all New World bufonids out of the genus Bufo, consequently placing “Bufo” marinus into the genus Chaunus in their sweeping taxonomic revision of the Amphibia. Systematic research by Pramuk (2006) suggested an additional split within this South American group. More recently, Chaparro et al. (2007) transferred this and some other South American bufonid species into the genus Rhinella (Frost, 2007; Frost et al. 2008). The taxonomy of this group remains dynamic. Liner (1994) provided a Spanish vernacular name for R. marina in Mexico. Various studies and summaries of the natural history of R. marina have been published (Schwartz and Henderson, 1991; Campbell, 1998; Schlaepfer and Pilgrim, 2003; Vaz-Silva and da Frota, 2004; Vargas-Salinas, 2005; Laurance and Laurance, 2007).  Summaries of the complex history of introductions of cane toads worldwide are provided by Oliver (1949), Easteal (1981, 1986, 1989), Easteal and Floyd (1986), and Lever (2001, 2003).

The clearing of forests for agriculture and roadways in Amazonian South America creates new habit that is quickly invaded by R. marina (Duellman, 1999b). In Australia, cane toads can disperse rapidly by using sparsely vegetated roadside clearings as corridors (Brown et al., 2006). Sensitivity to cold weather and their restriction to disturbed anthropogenic habitats may eventually halt the slow, northward spread of R. marina in Florida (Krakauer, 1968, 1970; McCann et al., 1996).

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Author: Somma, L.A.

Revision Date: 5/1/2018

Citation Information:
Somma, L.A., 2018, Rhinella marina (Linnaeus, 1758): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=48, Revision Date: 5/1/2018, Access Date: 7/18/2018

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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2018]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [7/18/2018].

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