Richard Shine

Richard Shine
Macquarie University

B Sc Hons ANU; Ph D Univ New England, D Sc Univ Sydney

About

1,317
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Introduction
Rick is a Professor in Biology at Macquarie University, in Sydney. His research focuses on the ecology and evolution of reptiles and amphibians, and on using fundamental field-based ecological research to resolve conservation challenges.

Publications

Publications (1,317)
Article
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Comparative studies of mortality in the wild are necessary to understand the evolution of aging; yet, ectothermic tetrapods are underrepresented in this comparative landscape, despite their suitability for testing evolutionary hypotheses. We present a study of aging rates and longevity across wild tetrapod ectotherms, using data from 107 population...
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As an invasive organism spreads into a novel environment, it may encounter strong selective pressures to adapt to abiotic and biotic challenges. We examined the effect of water temperature during larval life on rates of survival and growth of the early life-history stages of cane toads ( Rhinella marina ) from two geographic regions (tropical vs. t...
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Although giant snakes are abundant in some tropical forests, their ecology is far less well-known than for smaller species of snakes in cooler climates. Information on spatial ecology can clarify management issues such as the sizes and types of habitats needed for conservation. We radio-tracked 27 scrub pythons (Simalia amethistina; snout-vent leng...
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Life-history traits such as rates of growth, survival and reproduction can vary though time within a single population, or through space among populations, due to abiotically-driven changes in resource availability. In terrestrial reptiles, parameters such as temperature and rainfall generate variation in life-histories—but other parameters likely...
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Evolutionary theory suggests that polymorphic traits can be maintained within a single population only under specific conditions, such as negative frequency-dependent selection or heterozygote advantage. Non-venomous turtle-headed sea snakes (Emydocephalus annulatus) living in shallow bays near Noumea in New Caledonia exhibit three colour morphs: b...
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Evolutionary arms races can alter both parasite infectivity and host resistance, and it is difficult to separate the effects of these twin determinants of infection outcomes. We used a co-introduced, invasive host-parasite system (the lungworm Rhabdias pseudosphaerocephala and cane toads Rhinella marina), where rapid adaptation and dispersal have l...
Article
Adaptations of post‐hatching animals have attracted far more study than have embryonic responses to environmental challenges, but recent research suggests that we have underestimated the complexity and flexibility of embryos. We advocate a dynamic view of embryos as organisms capable of responding – on both ecological and evolutionary timescales –...
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In many species, cannibalism is uncommon and involves nonselective consumption of conspecifics as well as heterospecifics. However, within their invasive Australian range, cane toad larvae (Rhinella marina) specifically target and voraciously consume the eggs and hatchlings of conspecifics, often extirpating entire clutches. In contrast, toad larva...
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Competition within and among species can play a key role in structuring the assemblages of anuran tadpoles. Previous studies have reported that tadpoles of the invasive cane toad ( Rhinella marina ) are more strongly disadvantaged by the presence of native frog tadpoles than by the same number of conspecific toad tadpoles. That effect might arise f...
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How innovations such as vision, flight and pregnancy evolve is a central question in evolutionary biology. Examination of transitional (intermediate) forms of these traits can help address this question, but these intermediate phenotypes are very rare in extant species. Here we explore the biology and evolution of transitional forms of pregnancy th...
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Biological invasions can modify the behaviour of vulnerable native species in subtle ways. For example, native predators may learn or evolve to reduce foraging in conditions (habitats, times of day) that expose them to a toxic invasive species. In tropical Australia, freshwater crocodiles (Crocodylus johnstoni) are often fatally poisoned when they...
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Understanding the mechanisms allowing invasive species to adapt to novel environments is a challenge in invasion biology. Many invaders demonstrate rapid evolution of behavioural traits involved in range expansion such as locomotor activity, exploration and risk-taking. However, the molecular mechanisms that underpin these changes are poorly unders...
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Reptile eggs develop in intimate association with microbiota in the soil, raising the possibility that embryogenesis may be affected by shifts in soil microbiota caused by anthropogenic disturbance, translocation of eggs for conservation purposes, or laboratory incubation in sterile media. To test this idea we incubated eggs of keelback snakes ( Tr...
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Invasions often accelerate through time, as dispersal-enhancing traits accumulate at the expanding range edge. How does the dispersal behaviour of individual organisms shift to increase rates of population spread? We collate data from 44 radio-tracking studies (in total, of 650 animals) of cane toads (Rhinella marina) to quantify distances moved pe...
Article
The frequency and severity of wildfires are increasing due to anthropogenic modifications to habitats and to climate. Post-fire landscapes may advantage invasive species via multiple mechanisms, including changes to host–parasite interactions. We surveyed the incidence of endoparasitic lungworms ( Rhabdias pseudosphaerocephala ) in invasive cane to...
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Geographical variation in abiotic and biotic conditions can significantly affect the rate that an invasive species expands its range. The colonisation of Australia by cane toads (Rhinella marina) has attracted extensive research, but mostly in tropical regions rather than cooler climatic zones. We assembled multiple datasets to characterise the his...
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For sea snakes as for many types of animals, long-term studies on population biology are rare and hence, we do not understand the degree to which annual variation in population sizes is driven by density-dependent regulation versus by stochastic abiotic factors. We monitored three populations of turtle-headed sea snakes ( Emydocephalus annulatus )...
Preprint
Evolutionary arms races can alter both parasite infectivity and host resistance, and it is difficult to separate the effects of these twin determinants of infection outcomes. Using a co-introduced, invasive host-parasite system (the lungworm Rhabdias pseudosphaerocephala and the cane toad Rhinella marina), we quantified behavioural responses of par...
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Full-text available
In snakes, divergence in head size between the sexes has been interpreted as an adaptation to intersexual niche divergence. By overcoming gape-limitation, a larger head enables snakes of one sex to ingest larger prey items. Under this hypothesis, we do not expect a species that consumes only tiny prey items to exhibit sex differences in relative he...
Preprint
Full-text available
Competition within and among species can play a key role in structuring the assemblages of anuran tadpoles. Previous studies have reported that tadpoles of the invasive cane toad ( Rhinella marina ) are more strongly disadvantaged by the presence of native frog tadpoles than by the same number of conspecific toad tadpoles. That effect might arise f...
Article
Full-text available
Cane toads (Rhinella marina) are notoriously successful invaders: from 101 individuals brought to Australia in 1935, poisonous toads now cover an area >1.2 million km2 with adverse effects on native fauna. Despite extensive research on the role of macroparasites in cane toad invasion, viral research is lagging. We compared viral prevalence and dive...
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Amphibian skin secretions (substances produced by the amphibian plus microbiota) plausibly act as a first line of defense against parasite/pathogen attack, but may also provide chemical cues for pathogens. To clarify the role of skin secretions in host–parasite interactions, we conducted experiments using cane toads (Rhinella marina) and their lung...
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Biotic conflict can create evolutionary arms races, in which innovation in one group increases selective pressure on another, such that organisms must constantly adapt to maintain the same level of fitness. In some cases, this process is driven by conflict among members of the same species. Intraspecific conflict can be an especially important sele...
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Scuba-divers on tropical coral-reefs often report unprovoked “attacks” by highly venomous Olive sea snakes ( Aipysurus laevis ). Snakes swim directly towards divers, sometimes wrapping coils around the diver’s limbs and biting. Based on a focal animal observation study of free-ranging Olive sea snakes in the southern Great Barrier Reef, we suggest...
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Biological invasions can massively disrupt ecosystems, but evolutionary and ecological adjustments may modify the magnitude of that impact through time. Such post-colonisation shifts can change priorities for management. We quantified the abundance of two species of giant monitor lizards, and of the availability of their mammalian prey, across 45 s...
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Understanding how animal populations respond to environmental factors is critical because large-scale environmental processes (e.g., habitat fragmentation, climate change) are impacting ecosystems at unprecedented rates. On an overgrazed floodplain in north-western Australia, a native rodent (Pale Field Rat, Rattus tunneyi ) constructs its burrows...
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Chemical cues produced by late-stage embryos of the cane toad ( Rhinella marina ) attract older conspecific larvae, which are highly cannibalistic and can consume an entire clutch. To clarify the molecular basis of this attraction response, we presented captive tadpoles with components present in toad eggs. As previously reported, attractivity aris...
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Like most invasive species, cane toads have attracted less research in their native range than in invaded areas. We radio-tracked 34 free-ranging toads in French Guiana, a source region for most invasive populations, across two coastal and two rainforest sites. Coastal toads generally sheltered in pools of fresh or brackish water but nocturnally fo...
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Over the past decade, vertebrate populations globally have experienced significant declines in distribution and abundance. Understanding the reasons behind these population declines is the first step in implementing appropriate management responses to improve conservation outcomes. Uncovering drivers of extirpation events after the fact, however, r...
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By affecting the abundance of key native species, invasive taxa may disrupt ecosystem services. In Australia, large monitor lizards (Varanus spp.) play critical roles as scavengers and apex predators. Our broadscale surveys (across two transects, 1300 and 2500 km) show that in tropical areas where the arrival of fatally toxic cane toads (Rhinella m...
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Our knowledge of the conservation status of reptiles, the most diverse class of terrestrial vertebrates, has improved dramatically over the past decade, but still lags behind that of the other tetrapod groups. Here, we conduct the first comprehensive evaluation (~92% of the world's ~1714 described species) of the conservation 1 Joint senior authors...
Article
Species that are distributed over wide geographical ranges are likely to encounter a greater diversity of environmental conditions than do narrowly distributed taxa, and thus we expect a correlation between size of geographical range and breadth of physiological tolerances to abiotic challenges. That correlation could arise either because higher ph...
Preprint
Amphibian skin secretions (substances produced by the amphibian plus microbiota) plausibly act as a first line of defense against pathogen attack, but may also provide chemical cues for pathogens. To clarify the role of skin secretions in host-parasite interactions, we conducted experiments using cane toads (Rhinella marina) and their lungworms (Rh...
Article
Full-text available
Functional roles of the rich microbiota of the skin are not fully understood, but include protection against microbial diseases and other environmental challenges. In experimental studies, we show that reducing the microbiota from cane toad (Rhinella marina) skin by gently wiping with absorptive gauze resulted in threefold higher rates of infection...
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Despite broad scientific consensus that sustainable use of wildlife can enhance conservation efforts, ethical concerns have led some community groups to oppose use of wild animals. Voicing those concerns is legitimate, but underlying philosophical bias should not influence science-based analysis and interpretation. We argue that philosophical biase...
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1. Research on interactions between humans and deadly snakes has focused on situ- ations that result in high rates of snakebite; but we can also learn from cases where snakes and people coexist peacefully. For example, coastal bays near Noumea, in the Pacific archipelago of New Caledonia, are used by thousands of tourists and snakes, but bites are...
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In response to novel environments, invasive populations often evolve rapidly. Standing genetic variation is an important predictor of evolutionary response but epigenetic variation may also play a role. Here, we use an iconic invader, the cane toad ( Rhinella marina ), to investigate how manipulating epigenetic status affects phenotypic traits. We...
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By perturbing co-evolved interactions, biological invasions provide an opportunity to study the evolution of interactions between hosts and their parasites on ecological timescales. We studied the interaction between the cane toad (Rhinella marina) and its direct-lifecycle lungworm (Rhabdias pseudosphaerocephala) that was brought from South America...
Article
By perturbing co-evolved interactions, biological invasions provide an opportunity to study the evolution of interactions between hosts and their parasites on ecological timescales. We studied the interaction between the cane toad (Rhinella marina) and its direct-lifecycle lungworm (Rhabdias pseudosphaerocephala) that was brought from South America...
Article
We report two cases of Cane Toads Rhinella marina being killed by Australasian Giant Centipedes Ethmostigmus rubripes in the Northern Territory. At 1730 h on 12 November 2020, a centipede was found attacking a subadult Cane Toad near Larrimah, Northern Territory. At 2015 h on 26 April 2005, near Humpty Doo, a centipede that was seized by a subadult...
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Variation in morphological, genetic, or behavioural traits within and among native species can modify vulnerability to impacts from an invasive species. If an individual’s vulnerability depends upon its cognitive performance, we may see adaptive shifts in cognitive traits post-invasion. Commonly, animals with enhanced cognitive abilities perform be...
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Anthropogenic activities often create distinctive but discontinuously distributed habitat patches with abundant food but high risk of predation. Such sites can be most effectively utilized by individuals with specific behaviors and morphologies. Thus, a widespread species that contains a diversity of sizes and behavioral types may be pre‐adapted to...
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Supplementary material showing videos of lace monitors (Varanus varius) interacting wth a novel prey-acquisition test deployed in the field.
Article
In a widespread species, a matching of phenotypic traits to local environmental optima is generally attributed to site-specific adaptation. However, the same matching can occur via adaptive plasticity, without requiring genetic differences among populations. Adult sea kraits ( Laticauda saintgironsi ) are highly philopatric to small islands, but th...
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If optimal investment in anti-predator defences depends on predation risk, invading new regions (and thus, encountering different predators) may favour shifts in that investment. Cane toads offer an ideal system to test this prediction: expensive anti-predator toxins are stored mainly in parotoid glands whose dimensions are easy to measure, and toa...
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Vulnerable native species may survive the impact of a lethally toxic invader by changes in behaviour, physiology and/or morphology. The roles of such mechanisms can be clarified by standardised testing. We recorded behavioural responses of monitor lizards (Varanus panoptes and V. varius) to legs of poisonous cane toads (Rhinella marina) and non-tox...
Article
We describe a case of a free-ranging Carpet Python Morelia spilota consuming a toxic Cane Toad Rhinella marina, and dying as a result. Such an encounter would not be surprising at the toad invasion front, where predators first confront this novel prey type. However, the encounter we describe occurred at a site near Darwin where toads have been pres...
Preprint
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As technological advancements enhance our ability to study population genetics, we must understand how the intrinsic properties of our datasets influence the decisions we make when designing experiments. Filtering parameter thresholds, such as call rate and minimum minor allele frequency (MAF), are known to affect inferences of population structure...
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As is common in biological invasions, the rate at which cane toads ( Rhinella marina ) have spread across tropical Australia has accelerated through time. Individuals at the invasion front travel further than range-core conspecifics and exhibit distinctive morphologies that may facilitate rapid dispersal. However, the links between these morphologi...
Article
Morphological features that impair a predator's ability to consume a prey item may benefit individual prey; but what of features that prolong prey‐handling but do not enhance prey survival? For example, a striped eel catfish Plotosus lineatus will be fatally envenomated if struck by its specialist predator, the greater sea snake Hydrophis major. No...
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Within a population of apex predators, differences among individuals can influence both their ecological impact and their vulnerability to threatening processes. Our field studies on a large monitor lizard (Varanus panoptes) in the Australian wet–dry tropics show that diets shift seasonally and depend upon a lizard’s sex and body size. Individuals...
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The water‐permeable skin of amphibians renders them highly sensitive to climatic conditions, and interspecific correlations between environmental moisture levels and rates of water exchange across the skin suggest that natural selection adapts hydroregulatory mechanisms to local challenges. How quickly can such mechanisms shift when a species encou...
Article
The availability of prey varies through time and space, forcing predators to modify the times, places and ways in which they forage. Although studied most intensively in mammalian and avian predators, seasonal shifts in predation tactics are widespread in ectotherms also. In tropical rainforests of northeastern Australia, scrub pythons (Simalia ame...
Article
On 10 March 2014, a radio-tracked Australian scrub python (Simalia amethistina) made a predatory attack on a 64 kg sleeping woman. The snake was unsuccessful, but data from our radio-tracking programme suggest that predation attempts on oversized prey are not uncommon-even if they threaten the survival of the predator. We explore hypotheses about w...
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In 1935, cane toads (Rhinella marina) were brought to Australia to control insect pests. The devastating ecological impacts of that introduction have attracted extensive research, but the toads' impact on their original targets has never been evaluated. Our analyses confirm that sugar production did not increase significantly after the anurans were...
Article
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Although sea snakes are important predators in coral reef ecosystems and have undergone substantial population declines in some areas, we have little robust information on life histories of these animals. Based on a 17-yr mark–recapture study of turtle-headed sea snakes (Emydocephalus annulatus) in New Caledonia (> 1200 individuals marked), we can...
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The fitness of a predator depends upon its ability to locate and capture prey; and thus, increasing dietary specialization should favor the evolution of species-specific foraging tactics tuned to taxon-specific habitats and cues. Within marine environments, prey detectabil-ity (e.g., via visual or chemical cues) is affected by environmental conditi...
Article
Within all wild populations, individuals vary in ways that affect their vulnerability to threatening processes. Understanding that variation may clarify mechanisms of population persistence and/or evolution. In Australia, Yellow-spotted Monitors (Varanus panoptes), decline by >90% when toxic Cane Toads (Rhinella marina) invade an area. Taste-aversi...
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The structure of the skin may evolve rapidly during a biological invasion, for two reasons. First, novel abiotic challenges such as hydric conditions may modify selection of traits (such as skin thickness) that determine rates of evaporative water loss. Second, invaders might benefit from enhanced rates of dispersal, with locomotion possibly facili...
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• Laboratory experiments have shown that the viability of embryos of the invasive cane toad (Rhinella marina) can be reduced by exposure to chemical cues from older conspecific larvae. These effects (very strong in laboratory trials) may offer an exciting new approach to controlling this problematic invasive species in Australia. However, the degre...
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Adaptive developmental plasticity allows individuals to match their phenotype with their environment, which can increase fitness where threats are inconsistently present. Because adaptive traits are not ubiquitously nor infinitely plastic, tradeoffs between benefits and costs or limits are theoretically necessary to constrain plastic responses. Sys...
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In response to encountering abiotic extremes, many organisms exhibit stress responses as measured by levels of corticosterone and heat-shock protein (e.g., HSP70) in the blood. Such responses can enhance organismal viability. How quickly can those responses shift if the organisms encounter novel challenges, as occurs with climate change, or a speci...
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Amphibians in hot climates may be able to avoid high temperatures by controlling their rates of heating. In northern Australia, invasive cane toads (Rhinella marina) experience hot dry conditions in newly-colonized (western) sites but milder conditions in longer-occupied (eastern) sites. Under standardized conditions, toads from western sites heate...