Published on 4 December 2012
5 December 2012
Research into the manipulation of hormones to change the sex of crustaceans – which could help boost seafood production and provide new controls for invasive crustaceans – has begun at the University of the Sunshine Coast.
USC Research Fellow in Aquaculture Dr Tomer Ventura has won a $371,000 Discovery Early Career Research Award from The Australian Research Council to investigate how the spiny lobster’s androgenic gland can be managed to induce gender change.
“Crustaceans are quite unique in that they have an androgenic gland which governs masculinity and the maintenance of masculinity,” Dr Ventura said.
“By intervening and switching off the androgenic gland hormone, you are able to transfer genetic males into functional females. On the other hand, by introducing the hormone, you could induce masculinity in genetic females.
“This technology does not involve genetically modified organisms and uses natural compounds that are biodegradable and do not threaten human health.”
Dr Ventura said his three-year project involving spiny lobsters could have implications for the aquaculture industry and could also be applied in the development of tools for invasive crustacean control.
“Male lobsters grow bigger faster, so naturally it would be commercially valuable for the industry to produce populations that are all male,” he said.
“But imagine that you have an invasive crustacean species that you would like to manage. If you introduce a large number of males, you will minimise the reproduction of these species.”
Dr Ventura recently completed his doctorate at the Ben-Gurion University in Israel on the sexual manipulation of the commercially valuable freshwater prawn and began work at USC’s Genecology Research Centre in August.
“This investigation into the gender manipulation of the spiny lobster will incorporate findings from my PhD and require me to travel to the University of Tasmania to work on lobster aquaculture with project collaborator Associate Professor Stephen Battaglene and his team at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Science,” he said.
Dr Ventura said his project had also received funding from the Collaborative Research Network and from USC and its Faculty of Science, Health, Education and Engineering, where he is gaining support and mentorship from Professor Abigail Elizur, head of USC’s GeneCology Research Centre.
USC’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research Professor Roland De Marco said Dr Ventura was one of the world’s leaders in his field.
“While research at USC already has great momentum, Dr Ventura’s work is going to raise the University’s profile both nationally and internationally,” he said.
— Michelle Widdicombe