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Biocontrol and the importance of species specificity (V0057)

Dr Doug Eckery and Dr Warwick Grant from AgResearch explain why species specificity is important for their research into biocontrol of possums, investigating ways to control possums using other organisms.

Of course it is really important that other species are not affected. This is one of the problems with using poisons, like 1080. They are often non-specific, and kill species other than possums, like dogs and deer.
An important part of the research being done at AgResearch into biocontrol of possums is that the biocontrol agent will only affect possums.

Transcript

Dr Doug Eckery (AgResearch): In producing biological controls there are a set of criteria that need to be met, and species specificity is certainly one of them.

Dr Warwick Grant (AgResearch): So if we release this thing into the environment here, how do we know it is going to stick to possums, that’s basically what that question is asking.

Dr Doug Eckery (AgResearch): The hormone that we are using, GnRH, is not specific to possums, so there are other animals that if they were to get into the bait they would be affected by it as well.

Dr Warwick Grant (AgResearch): We have done some experiments where we have tried to take this nematode and we have tried to infect other animals, other non marsupial animals, so you know mice, rabbits, guinea pigs, the kinds of animals that we have around in the lab, and we have been spectacularly unsuccessful. However before we went to this stage of deliberately releasing this parasite we would obviously set up a series of experiments where we would test that much more rigorously in a whole range of other animals and birds.

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