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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 40(3)

Queensland northern quolls are not immune to cane toad toxin

Beata Ujvari A, Meri Oakwood B and Thomas Madsen C D E

A Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.
B Envirotek Ecological Services, PO Box 4022, Coffs Harbour Jetty, NSW 2450, Australia.
C School of Molecular and Microbial Biosciences, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.
D School of Biological Sciences, University of Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia.
E Corresponding author. Email: madsen@uow.edu.au

Wildlife Research 40(3) 228-231 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WR13011
Submitted: 17 January 2013  Accepted: 3 April 2013   Published: 24 April 2013

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Context: The release of the highly toxic South American cane toad (Bufo marinus) to the toad-free Australian continent in 1935, and their subsequent rapid spread over large areas of tropical Australia, has resulted in a massive decline of predators such as yellow-spotted goannas (Varanus panoptes) and northern quolls (Dasyurus hallucatus). In spite of dramatic declines of northern quoll populations in the Northern Territory, a few populations still persist in areas of Queensland where northern quolls have co-existed with toads for several decades.

Aims: To determine whether the remaining quoll populations in Queensland have evolved resistance to cane toad toxins.

Methods: The extracellular H1–H2 domain of the α1 subunit of the sodium–potassium-ATPase gene was sequenced in four Queensland as well as four Northern Territory quolls. The transcribed sodium–potassium-ATPase enzyme from this gene is specifically targeted by toad toxins.

Key results: In all of the eight quolls, the sequences representing the 36 bp of the H1–H2 domain of the α1 subunit of the sodium–potassium-ATPase gene were identical.

Conclusions: Our results showed that Queensland quolls have not evolved an increased resistance to the toad toxins. We therefore suggest that the persistence of northern quolls in a few toad infested areas of Queensland could to be due to a combination of optimal habitat quality, and concomitant large quoll numbers, as well as an aversion to feeding on these highly toxic amphibians.

Implications: We suggest that a sample of northern quolls from the Queensland populations should be captured and their response, as well as that of their offspring and grand-offspring, to cane toads should be investigated to guide management of this declining species.


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