A close-up of a zebra mussel, bearing a pattern typical of the species. Credit: Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=352698
Mike McCartney, a researcher with the University of Minnesota, and his department are interested in zebra mussels, an invasive known to spread quickly and harm native fish populations. Well, more specifically, they are interested in the genetic biocontrol of the invasive. But what exactly does that mean?
"It's the attempt to reduce the population of a pest," said McCartney, "You use a genetic approach, which actually goes into, in this case, the genome of the animal and makes changes." Changes that will create a mussel which can't survive, that will be released and breed with the existing population, hopefully passing along the mal-adaptive genetic changes.
"You could create a lethal gene that causes the mussels to die while they're developing larvae," said McCartney. "That would work pretty much like a pesticide, because you could release it on an area and those animals in that area wouldn't be able to successfully reproduce."
However, some of what this method aims to due isn't allowed by law yet, and, according to McCartney, 10 years is his best guess until it could be put into practice.
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