Scientists Are Making a Groundbreaking Attempt at Saving Australia’s Northern Quoll

A team of scientists from the University of Melbourne and biotech company Colossal Biosciences are making a groundbreaking attempt to save the northern quoll, a carnivorous marsupial native to Australia, from extinction.

The northern quoll has been listed as Endangered since 2005, and some researchers estimate that the species could disappear within the next 10 years. The major threat to the northern quoll population in Australia are cane toads, as coming in contact with cane toad’s toxic skin is often fatal for the mammal.

Now, scientists are looking to genetically modify northern quolls to make them resistant to cane toad toxins. The initial results have been promising, and there is hope that a toad-toxin-resistant population of quolls will roam the wild in the next five years.  

Cane toads were introduced in Australia in 1935 in an attempt to suppress a bug population that had been damaging the country’s sugar cane crops. However, without previous encounters with cane toads and their inability to build resistance, a lot of Australia’s native species became susceptible to its toxins, especially those that prey on them, like the northern quoll.

“This is a simple [genetic] edit that would have evolved naturally. We’re adding a naturally occurring resistance, and it gives the quoll a fighting chance,” University of Melbourne’s Prof Andrew Pask told the Guardian.

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