Thursday, April 15, 2010

Quolls and Little Red Riding Hood

This is totally random, but was an example of just how wide ranging fairy tale influences and inspirations can be.

From Trained quolls reject tasty toads on Science Alert:

In their new study - inspired by children's fairy tale 'Little Red Riding Hood' - Professor Rick Shine, Stephanie O'Donnell and Dr Jonathan Webb from the University of Sydney tested whether quolls could be taught to avoid eating cane toads through "conditioned taste aversion" (CTA).Cane toads are highly toxic when eaten and have driven the northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus) - a cat-sized marsupial - to extinction in many parts of northern Australia. Cane toads are continuing to spread and will soon invade the Kimberley, one of the quoll's last strongholds.

The main problem for predators like the quoll is that they eat large toads, which usually kill the quolls rather than merely making them feel nauseous. Consequently, most predators do not learn to avoid toads as food.

According to Dr Webb: "I was reading a modern version of 'Little Red Riding Hood' to my kids, and in that story Grandma sews raw onions into the wolf's stomach, so when the wolf wakes up he feels sick and refuses to eat another Grandma again. 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."

How about that? And there is a picture of a quoll on the article's page or you can read a little more about them on Wikipedia.

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