Effects of mtDNA mutations on male fertility and their utility in biocontrol - The Trojan Female Technique

Project Overview



Biological control is widely used in the control and eradication of plant and animal species. Among the most common forms of biological control are a group of approaches that aim to control or eradicate population/species by reducing the fertility and reproductive capacity of a population/species. Numerous approaches have been developed for this purpose with varying levels of success. To date the most successful of these approaches has been the Sterile Male Technique, also known as the Sterile Insect Technique. In this approach large quantities of sterile males are released into a population each generation. If released in sufficient numbers these males monopolise matings with females, but because they are sterile no progeny are produced resulting in a reduction in the population size. Repeated cycles of release will ultimately result in population/species numbers being heavily reduced or even eradicated. The main problem with current Sterile Male approaches is that sterile males need to be produced and released very year. The Trojan Female Technique (TFT) uses mitochondrial DNA mutations that affect male, but not female fertility and fitness, circumventing this problem producing continuous, self-sustaining biological control.

Building on preliminary work undertaken using a generic model (Gemmell et al. 2013) we are seeking to explore the utility of the TFT approach using both mathematical and empirical approaches in key NZ pest species, such as the mice, rats, brush tail possum, weevils and wasps.

Further information on this technology can be found on the Landcare Research website.

If this project or any of our other research projects sound interestesting to you, check our Research Opportunities page to check what positions are available at the moment in the Gemmell Lab.


Media Highlights

New Zealand Herald



Professor Peter Dearden (Biochemistry Department, University of Otago) and Professor Dan Tompkins (Predator Free 2015 Ltd).