AUSTRALIA – Scientists have successfully trained a cat sized marsupial to avoid extinction!
The Quoll, an endangered marsupial, had a habit of eating cane toads. Although tasty to the marsupial, the cane toad carries a sac of venom on its head which could be fatal to the quoll if eaten whole. That problem will be no more from now on as Sydney University ecologists say they have trained the animal to suppress its instincts and refuse to eat the potentially deadly amphibians.
The cane toad was introduced back in the 1930s in an effort to control scarab beetles. Australia now populated by millions of the amphibians and quolls have made them a staple of their diet. Sydney researchers have been able to condition the marsupials to avoid eating the cane toad by feeding them very small toads drenched with a nauseating chemical.
“It dawned on me that if we could teach northern quolls to associate sickness with cane toads, we might have a way of conserving them,” researcher Jonathan Webb said.
The researchers called the procedure “conditional taste aversion.” The study has shown that conditioned quolls have survived five times longer that “toad-naive” quolls.
“Our results show that this kind of approach works. If you can teach a predator that cane toads make you sick, then that predator will leave them alone afterwards,” said Webb.
With the cane toad population expanding into many parts of the country, the quoll is facing a serious threat of extinction.

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