瑞秋Ryweck ’雅各·拉丰， instructional staff in the Department of 生物学, are experts on the most poisonous toads in the state.
的 two are researching the differences of several species of toads with the goal of understanding the differing DNA among them. By then tracking the DNA of the poisonous invasive cane toad species, Ryweck and LaFond can study the waves of cane toad invasions.
这项研究内容丰富, meaning the data will be shared with collaborators and may lead to finding a solution to the invasion. 的 goal is to remove the overgrown population of cane toads and restore Florida’s ecosystem.
的 challenge is, the toads Ryweck and LaFond are studying all look identical. 的 doppelgänger species are called cryptic species, a newer term in the evolution of science.
Even the foremost expert on cane toads with the best microscope couldn’t spot a spec of difference between the brown, bumpy and impressively large species of cane toads because physically, 这些物种难以区分, Ryweck解释说. Yet cane toad species are genetically distinct, which means they are classified as an entirely different species. Ryweck and LaFond have concentrated their work on two.
“如果你做了大量的基因研究, you can see that their DNA is slightly different and different enough that it’s two different species,瑞威克解释道.
到目前为止, one species they’ve studied came from the Amazon basin and the other originated from Central America and northwest South America.
的 anthropological approach can help document the evolution of these similar cane toad species and reflects an impressive, expanded cane toad empire: as far as Australia, cane toad species have flourished to the detriment of the local environment.
“We don’t know if different origins have certain diseases that they can spread compared to other origins,瑞威克说.
However, the cane toads have already hurt Florida wildlife and even the everyday Florida citizen. If ingested, the cane toads are poisonous and can kill cats, dogs and native Floridian wildlife. 的 toads also eat anything in the ecosystem, even if dog food is left out.
的 two started working together after Ryweck was interviewed to be a mentor for a biology class. Due to schedule conflicts, the position fell through, but LaFond was already impressed with Ryweck. She had mentioned in her interview the work she wanted to do in grad school on herpetology, the study of reptiles and amphibians.
He invited her onto the cane toad project shortly after.
Ryweck收到了来自 Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF), which provides a student and their research advisor funding to collect and present research. 的 grant enabled Ryweck and LaFond to travel to Lake Placid in the middle of Florida with a group of researchers to find and collect cane toads.
的 group arrived past sundown in a residential neighborhood, armed with protective equipment. 的 locals were suspicious at first but quickly grew enthused with the research project. 的 neighborhood warmed up to the band of scientists and would point out popular “hot spots” where the toads liked to habituate, Ryweck说.
Twenty toads later, Ryweck and LaFond began to document toad data. 的 findings will be shared with sister universities like the 大学 of Florida, which also are doing research on invasive species.
当项目结束时, Ryweck will apply to graduate school with the cane toad research on her application. LaFond plans to continue researching the cryptic toad species complex.
Both researchers expressed their appreciation for the project and their sorrow to say goodbye to the cane toads.
Most nuisances aren’t as cute as the cane toads, 拉方说, and he can’t help feeling a bit conflicted about them.
“It’s not their fault that they’re here,” he said. “他们被带到这里来了, and they’re just doing what nature intended them to do—go around and eat everything. 的y’re living their truth, and they’re adorable.”
Lena Malpeli '25的故事