A cane toad in Kakadu National Park in Australia’s Northern Territory.
Photo: Mark Baker (AP)

Are these invasive cane toads waterlogged, or just really, really thirsty? The below photo, captured by one Andrew Mock of Kununurra in northern Australia, shows 10 cane toads riding out a storm that dumped nearly 70mm of rain by hitching themselves to the back of an approximately 3.5-meter python, the Guardian reported on Monday, though it seems as though their primary motivation may have been humping it.

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The paper wrote that the bizarre scene was originally discovered by Andrew Mock’s brother, Paul Mock, after which they quickly took a photo of the reptilian-amphibian Bang Bus:

Worried the dam and spillway might break its banks, Paul Mock ventured outside in the middle of the lightning and rain.

“The lake was so full it had filled the cane toad burrows around the bank and they were all sitting on top of the grass – thousands of them,” he told Guardian Australia.

“[The snake] was in the middle of the lawn, making for higher ground... He was literally moving across the grass at full speed with the frogs hanging on.”

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According to Jodi Rowley, the curator of Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Biology at the Australian Museum, the cane toads in question may have been less interested in escaping the rainfall than desperately trying to bang the snake.

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Cane toads are not native to Australia, and were introduced to the country in the 1930s in a misguided attempt to eliminate beetle infestations of sugar cane crops. That didn’t work, but the toads breed quickly and are highly adaptable, and every stage of their life cycle from eggs to adulthood are brimming with a potent venom that “can cause rapid heartbeat, excessive salivation, convulsions and paralysis and can result in death for many native animals,” according to the Australian government’s Department of the Environment and Energy. (The toxin even persists after death, meaning their corpses can poison carrion-eating animals or perhaps even ponds and puddles.)

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There’s no way to know for sure, but per the BBC, the number of the toads across the country is estimated to have perhaps crossed into the billions:

“They probably have moved about halfway through that tropical region of Western Australia,” explained Rick Shine, a professor in biology at the University of Sydney. “They are in very inaccessible country now in the Kimberley. It is very hard to get detailed information on exactly where the front is but it seems to be moving at 50 to 60km (31 to 37 miles) per annum.”

The warty amphibians move only during the wet season. Although tracking studies have shown many hop less than 10 metres a day, those at the front line have grown bigger and faster.

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Efforts to control the toad’s spread have included government-backed elimination campaigns (though funding was cut in 2014 as they outpaced the program) as well as air-dropping sausages of toad meat laced with a nauseating substance in an attempt to train predators not to eat the toxic toads. According to the Conversation, researchers recently sequenced the species’ genome, which could give conservation authorities better tools to finally crack down on their invasion of the continent.

[The Guardian via Quartz]

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