Sheep Reproduction Hope for NZ Possum Control
Researchers from AgResearch New Zealand and CSIRO Livestock Industries hope that sheep with natural genetic mutations affecting their reproduction may prove to be an excellent model in developing a possible control for New Zealand's possum plague.
After being introduced in the 1830s from Australia, New Zealand's Brushtail Possum numbers are now estimated at over 80 million. As declared pests, they decimate native trees, eat native birds and eggs, and compete with native fauna for food.
Speaking about the reproductive research direction at a recent seminar, AgResearch scientist Dr Jenny Juengel said the possums also spread TB into cattle herds and farmed deer herds, so eradicating them would not only be good for the environment but good for livestock production as well.
'We have linked our animal breeding and genetics research with molecular genetics and reproductive physiology to identify the central role that growth factors (hormones) produced by the oocyte (egg) play in regulating fertility,' she said.
'Understanding pathways that are essential for reproduction in sheep gives us a target pathway to see if it's essential in the Brushtail Possum, and to see if we can then develop a product that interferes with that pathway in the possum to cause sterility. …