Chemical defense in the animal kingdom

The use of skin glandular secretions for biochemical defenses against predators in common toads (Bufo bufo) - plasticity and costs in the light of climate change

In collaboration with the “young scientists” we study the functional importance of toxins as biochemical defense strategy in animals. In particular, we will deal with the poisonous secretions of the skin glands of toads (Bufo bufo). The following questions were addressed in this context:

• Does the venom production serve for defense against predators?
• Can changes in the environment affect the venom production and their composition?
• Is the production of skin toxins expensive?
• Can these costs be affected by changes in the environment (e.g. climatic changes during the winter)?

Together with the students we carried out a series of field and laboratory experiments and collected additional field data. The results are innovative and new to science, and deal with issues that are currently being discussed. The results will be the basis and starting point for a number of other questions in evolutionary biology and of safeguards in connection with amphibians.

The research project took place at the school, which means that the students had the opportunity to participate at any point in the project. Together we discussed ecological and evolutionary contexts, and the project helped students to reduce inhibitions against amphibians, to work in cooperation with scientists, and to take responsibility for animals. The project raised awareness among students for natural and environmental issues and problems. The work with the animals and the experimental procedure was such, that they enjoy and arouse interest. It was important that the pupils not only receive knowledge passively but actively acquire knowledge and produce scientific results themselves.

This project has been completed.