The DNA of the cane toad, a poisonous amphibian which represents a real threat to a lot of native Australian species, was just unlocked by a group of scientists who came from UNSW Sydney, the University of Sydney, Deakin University, Brazil and Portugal. After the work was done, the resulted study was published in the GigaScience academic journal.
Peter White, the project’s leader and a Professor in Microbiology and Molecular Biology at UNSW, said that ” Despite its iconic status, there are major gaps in our understanding of cane toad genetics, and up until now, no one had put the genome together”. Researchers in WA tried almost a decade ago to sequence the cane toad genome. However, they encountered some obstacles which prevented them from properly assembling it, so the project was never completed.
In order to make sure that this project didn’t end up as the one from ten years ago, the UNSW-University of Sydney team made their work down at the Ramaciotti Centre for Genomics at UNSW. The Centre was used previously for decoding other iconic Australian species, including the koala bear.
The lead author of the study, Senior Lecturer Dr Rich Edwards, said that “Sequencing and assembling a genome is a complicated process. By using the cutting-edge sequencing technology and expertise available at UNSW, we sequenced 360-odd billion base pairs and assembled one of the best quality amphibian genomes to date”.
He continued to say that ”We managed to decipher more than 90% of the cane toad genes using technology that can sequence very long pieces of DNA, which makes the task of putting together the genome jigsaw much easier”. The resulted draft cane toad genome is what is needed to help closing key knowledge gaps and as a result, cane toad research will accelerate.