Laughter is the Best Medicine

Scientists crack genetic code of cane toad

For the first time anywhere in the world we’ve managed to map the entire genome or genetic information of the cane toad. We used the sequencing technology
and expertise of the Ramaciotti Centre at UNSW. We managed to sequenced over 360 billion base pairs of the cane toad genome and it’s one of the best assembled genomes for an amphibian to date. This is a major
stepping-stone towards understanding how we can finally control this extremely destructive
imported pest. Cane Toads were introduced to Australia in 1935 to control the cane beetle; as most people know, they ate just about everything except the beetle. They’ve been spreading through Australia ever since, poisoning native wildlife as they go. A reference genome could give us valuable insights into how the toad is spreading, how its toxins work, and what we might be able to do to control cane toads in Australia. The current methods of removal
like physical removal have not been successful. What we’re looking at is
to try and find the virus to control the toad. Just like what we did with the European rabbit in Australia but previous to now all the viruses that infected toads were also dangerous to native amphibians. Using different sequencing methods including the genome we found a few viruses that are cane toad specific. Now we can investigate their potential as biocontrol agents. This draft cane toad genome is going to help close key
knowledge gaps, but it’s also going to help accelerate cane toad research everywhere. More toads can now be sequenced at a fraction of the cost and the sequence is freely available for anyone to use in their research. This is a huge leap forward.

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