Posted in biology, literature, Uncategorized

Red Riding Hood inspires science

The quolls that had been trained to avoid toads had a much higher survival rate. (Jonathan Webb)

From ABC News Australia:

The fairytale Little Red Riding Hood has inspired Australian scientists to invent a new weapon in the fight to save endangered native marsupials from being poisoned by cane toads.

Cane toads have driven the northern quoll to extinction in many parts of northern Australia and they are threatening to invade Western Australia’s Kimberley regions, one of the quoll’s last strongholds.

But scientists from the University of Sydney have trained a group of 62 young quolls to associate cane toads with feeling sick – a process called “conditioned taste aversion”.

Before releasing the quolls into the wild, Professor Rick Shine, Stephanie O’Donnell and Dr Jonathan Webb fed each marsupial a small dead cane toad.

The toads were not large enough to kill the quolls, but they were laced with a chemical that made the quolls feel nauseous.

Dr Webb said the quolls quickly learned to avoid eating toads.

“When we offered them a live cane toad they wanted to eat it. You could see them looking at it,” he told the ABC.

Read the full story…

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Author:

Beth Kelley is a writer and researcher with an overall interest in how people engage with and are impacted by their environments and vice versa. This has manifested itself in many ways, by looking at creativity, playful spaces and environmental enrichment, sustainability, design research, and integrative and collaborative models of learning such as through play and hands-on learning.