Fox invasion threatens wave of extinction, research finds

Dec 04, 2012

Using DNA detection techniques developed at the University, the team mapped the presence of foxes in Tasmania, predicted their spread and developed a model of their likely distribution as a blueprint for fox eradication, but swift and decisive action is needed.

University of Canberra professor in and leader of the team, Stephen Sarre, found are widespread in northern and eastern Tasmania and the model developed by his team forecasts they will spread even further with likely devastating consequences for the island's wildlife.

"There's nothing fantastic about foxes being in Tasmania. If we allow them to establish themselves we could see a catastrophic wave of extinction across the island," Professor Sarre said.

"This research shows foxes are on the verge of becoming irreversibly present in Tasmania," he said. "Their apparent widespread distribution indicates that the eradication effort is at a critical point and that there is no time to lose."

Professor Sarre and colleagues used forensic DNA tests combined with collections of fox scats to detect and map the distribution of the predator in Tasmania.

Their detective work, in partnership with Tasmania's Fox , represents one of the largest surveys of its kind worldwide and provides the first systematic examination of the distribution of foxes in the island, following evidence and allegations that indicate a long history of isolated introductions.

According to Professor Sarre, the widespread nature of the predator distribution in Tasmania reveals that targeting only fox activity hotspots for eradication is unlikely to be successful.

"The recently adopted plan of baiting all highly suitable fox habitats is the right one given the widespread fox distribution that we've found.

"The present situation could be as serious a threat to the pristine Tasmanian environment as the previous wave was to Australia's mainland fauna, following the arrival of Europeans and which has so far wiped out more than 20 species.

"We suggest an increased effort and an even more focused approach to maximize the chances of a successful eradication. Otherwise, Australia stands on the precipice of another major episode of mammalian extinctions."

Explore further: Scientist creates automatic birdsong recognition app

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Tasmania plans to eradicate red foxes

Nov 20, 2006

Tasmania plans to spend millions of dollars destroying red foxes, an animal that until recently was thought not to have spread there.

Tasmanian Tiger Extinction Mystery

Jun 27, 2007

A University of Adelaide project led by zoologist Dr Jeremy Austin is investigating whether the world-fabled Tasmanian Tiger may have survived beyond its reported extinction in the late 1930s.

Study: Foxes can't outfox coyotes

May 25, 2006

Illinois wildlife biologists say coyotes, known to be killers of domestic pets, might also be causing a decline in the Chicago area's fox population.

Sympathy for the devils

Oct 24, 2011

Better than sympathy, now there's hope for the devil -- the Tasmanian devil, that is.

Recommended for you

Scientist creates automatic birdsong recognition app

2 hours ago

Dr Dan Stowell, an EPSRC Research Fellow in QMUL's School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, has used a grant from Queen Mary Innovation to develop a prototype for an app that turns his research ...

New research reveals fish are smarter than we thought

2 hours ago

(Phys.org) —A new study from researchers in our Department of Psychology with colleagues at Queen Mary University of London has reported the first evidence that fish are able to process multiple objects ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

VendicarD
not rated yet Dec 04, 2012
This is interesting because as we all know FOX News is facilitating the rapid extinction of the Failed American State.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.