Possums, horses, and pigs do it

Brushtail possums, photo by wollombi http://www.flickr.com/photos/wollombi/I just received an early publication alert from the Australian research organisation CSIRO announcing the imminent publication of volume 19 of their journal on reproductive science, fascinating I thought as I opened the attachment.

First up in the list of contents was a paper that sounded rather intriguing from FC Molinia and colleagues entitled: “Uterine and vaginal insemination optimised in brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) superovulated with pregnant mare serum gonadotrophin and porcine luteinising hormone”.

So, let us just dissect what that convoluted title actually means. Basically, they stimulated brushtail possums with hormones from a horse and a pig to make it produce more eggs than normal and then artificially inseminated the females, with brushtail possum sperm, obviously. I am pretty sure it is all standard procedure for getting those little brushtails up the duff, and it is not so odd that they used horse hormones in the process, after all, one form of human hormone replacement therapy uses equine estrogen.

Something worries me a lot about this particular EarlyAlert. The abstract says that artificial insemination of brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) is being developed as an assisted breeding model for endangered marsupials, as well as a bioassay for testing fertility control vaccines to manage overabundant populations.

Hmmm…humans do not have a strong record on “assisting” animals in this way, and particularly not in Australia, I am thinking rabbits and mixomatosis, feral camels, and the infamous cane toad, to name but three. Why is it that we feel we can intervene and manage ecosystems in this way? The end results are usually disastrous and given the purportedly fragile nature of Australia’s ecosystems, should we not leave well alone?

The full paper can be accessed here.

Author: bob投注平台

Award-winning freelance science writer, author of Deceived Wisdom. Sharp-shooting photographer and wannabe rockstar.