Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Let the poisonous toad stories begin...

Aloha! I have decided to start a blog so I can procrastinate more and help my friends and family do the same. Also, y'all have been entertaining me with your own blogs for years now, and it's high time I stopped mooching. I hope to update it regularly with pictures and stories from our adventures in Hawaii. Hopefully Dr. H will make guest appearances from time to time, but he will keep it simple for fear of students reading this. I will explain the title of the blog later, but please don't fret; a picture is worth a thousand words (or at least I hope so).

In the meatime, this is a Cane Toad (also see here for actual information) in our yard about to be licked by Gaffney, our three year old Ridgeback / Pit Bull mix. About 40 dogs per year die in Hawaii from licking the illustrious Cane Toad. The cane toad was introduced to Hawaii in 1932 to control sugarcane pests. The large protrusions (parotoid glands) behind its eyes contain digoxin-like cardioactive steroids. That is the same type of chemical in the flower, foxglove, which has been used to treat heart disorders since the late 18th century. At low doses, it acts by strengthening heart contractions and can return an irregularly beating heart to the proper rhythm. At high doses, the brain begins to be affected, including the onset of visual hallucinations of seeing blue and eventually the heart starts beating so rapidly it can no longer contract. I have also read that the toxins have also been lumped into a category called bufotoxins (Bufo, after the genus toads are in) which include hallucinogens and other brain-acting chemicals such as serotonin. The doctors in the house should please feel free to comment on any medical knowledge I have muddled with my ever-so-fleeting memory of human physiology. Gaffney, luckily, is still alive, but drooled profusely for a couple minutes after just sniffing it. We'll be on the lookout for future cane toads, centipedes, and other creatures that could possibly hurt the little one. Hopefully we'll get pictures, although I don't really want her to be this close again.