SMART carp hold promise for biocontrol of common carp
MAISRC researchers have made significant progress toward developing a first-of-its-kind biocontrol approach to combat invasive common carp using Sterile Male Accelerated Release Technology (SMART) carp. A key hurdle – having access to carp embryos year-round – was recently cleared with the creation of a lab system that facilitates out-of-cycle spawning.
Going forward, researchers plan to have the carp produce sperm and eggs year-round by changing husbandry protocols. Off-cycle embryogenesis was demonstrated by inducing captive carp to deposit eggs, which were then fertilized. The offspring are now being reared in the MAISRC Containment Lab. Establishing these year-round carp transgenesis capabilities will allow researchers to perform genetic engineering experiments routinely in the future.
Next, researchers will use fin clippings from 500 wild-caught common carp to conduct a genetic diversity screen, which will inform the genetic engineering efforts. They will also be producing transgenic juvenile fish, which is the critical first step toward the male incompatibility system.
Ultimately, this genetic engineering work aims to lead to the development of sterile males. When these males mate with wild females, they will produce no offspring. This control option is being modeled and weighed against other control options such as physical and chemical controls. An assessment of public opinion and attitudes on genetically modifying invasive species is also underway.
These modern genetic engineering tools enable new strategies for the control of invasive species. If this project is successful, it could lead to implementation of this technology in other AIS, such as Asian carp and zebra mussels.
Common carp are one of Minnesota’s most ubiquitous invasive species. They dominate the fish biomass of many shallow lakes in central and southern Minnesota. They degrade water quality and destroy waterfowl habitat by rooting in the lake bottom while searching for food. Learn more about their impacts here, and find more details about this research project here.