Sometimes I think I’m too critical of science news. But I occasionally see an article that irks me so much because it make so many basic scientific mistakes. Take this one for example. First it’s the headline: “Cane toad evolution ‘too fast for bodies.'” How can evolution be too fast? The article actually explains it: toads are literally fast because they move fast, which is putting strain on their bodies. But that doesn’t jibe with the headline’s meaning at all! Anyway the article goes on to say that researchers found that fast toads become arthritic which then cause a weakening of the immune system. Cane toads are a pest in Australia so they are suggesting using controlled dispersion of cane toad illnesses to kill them while they’re weak.
That plan doesn’t even sound good on paper, or in this case, computer screen. This little tidbit reinforces the flaw:
“[Arthritis] affected 10 per cent of toads on the invasion front, he said.”
So, basically the plan to give toads diseases will only work on 10 percent of the population, leaving 90 percent which are resistant. And that 90% will then become 100% because the weak ones died. And when that happens the disease will have no effect whatsoever and toad populations will keep on growing. Why even bother in the first place with the disease?
Also, the article ends with a gratuitous Old World use of the work “chink:”
“All these vulnerabilities constitute chinks in the toads’ armour.”
While technically there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s like using the word “niggardly,” the word is similar (or identical!) to a loaded word. There’s a reason we don’t refer to rabbits as “cunnies” anymore…