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» Smart Bird Washes Its Poisonous Prey Before Eating

 



Australians don’t seem to like the white ibis, a native bird that raids garbage cans and steals food right out of people’s hands. But they dislike cane toads even more. Cane toads are toxic amphibians that first arrived in Australia in the 1930s. They have proven dangerous to native animals. The toad’s skin contains venom which the animal releases when in danger. Most animals making contact with the toad die quickly of a heart attack.

Thus, Emily Vincent, the manager of invasive species programs at an environment charity, was greatly surprised when people started sending her photos and videos of ibis seeming to “play” with the toads. "Ibis were flipping the toads about, throwing them in the air, and people just wondered what on earth they were doing," she said. "After this they would always either wipe the toads in the wet grass, or they would go down to a water source nearby, and they would rinse the toads out."

Birds seem to be able to resist the toad poison more than can other animals like snakes, mammals, or crocodiles. Yet, they can still die if they consume too much of the toxin.

Other species of birds have different methods of feasting on the toads without getting sickened. Hawks and crows are smart enough to know where the poison glands are and avoid eating in those areas. But Prof. Rick Shine from Macquarie University said in 20 years of studying toads, he had never before heard of anything like the ibis’ method of washing away the toxin in order to consume the toads whole.

Both Shine and Vincent are encouraged by signs that native animals are learning to adapt to the toads which now may number over 2 billion individuals. Some species learn that toads should not be eaten. Other species may be experiencing genetic changes that help them resist the harmful effects of the toxin. And then there are animals like the ibis who have learned how to eat the amphibians safely.

"[The toads have] an incredible breeding capacity... so with every female cane toad that's removed from the environment, it's the prevention of up to 70,000 new cane toads each year," Ms. Vincent says.

Comments: This story seems to be an excellent example of intelligent design and the intelligence of lowly animals like the ibis. Without the aid of scientists or medical advisors, the ibis and other animals have enjoyed the intelligence to be able to figure out how to avoid danger in the form of these poisonous toads.

Some Christians may be bothered by the thought that God could have created poisonous animals in the first place. Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis puts things in proper perspective when he discusses the venom in snakes and how it has become a danger.

He writes, “Well, Scripture tells us that originally all of creation—including snakes—was ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31). Genesis also says that the animals (and Adam and Eve) were originally vegetarians (Genesis 1:30). So in a perfect world, there was no reason for snakes to kill or harm other creatures with venom. It wasn’t until after Adam and Eve sinned and death and suffering came into the world that defense/attack structures, like venom, were necessary. These structures may have had a good purpose in the original creation and then were used for new purposes after the fall, or they may have been expressed sometime after the fall (mediated design) as snakes adapted to a fallen world.”

Whether dangerous like venomous snakes or cane toads or harmless like sheep or koalas, animals are so incredibly well designed they show evidence that there is indeed a Creator. And perhaps we can use the examples of dangerous animals to remind us that a better, completely safe world is coming for every person who is faithfully following Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:12).

By Warren Krug

Reference:Tiffanie Turnbull, "Australia: How 'bin chickens' learnt to wash poisonous cane toads," BBC News [11/24/22].


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QUESTION OF THE DAY

What is a common feature of hand sanitizers, cooking oil, and laundry detergents?

They are all flammable.

Source: Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, “Fire Safety,” [October 9, 2022], page 13S.

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About Me--Warren Krug
Decades ago I attended a so-called Lutheran university where I could have lost my faith. The science professors promoted the theory of evolution and made fun of anybody who believed in the account of creation as presented in the book of Genesis. Thanks be to God, some creationist literature and the Bible soon helped get me back on the right track. Ever since then I have taken an active interest in the creation/evolution controversy.

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