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Lamprey Contraception

July 8, 2009

An evolutionary quirk in the sex hormones of sea lamprey could help bring the destructive Great Lakes invader under control.


Stopping a deadly invader. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In the Great Lakes, invasive sea lampreys latch on to native fish and kill them by sucking out all their juices.

They don’t have any natural enemies in the Great Lakes, so they’ve been devouring the native fish // and as a result the fishery was devastated.

That’s evolutionary biologist Michael Baker at the University of California, San Diego. But he says there’s hope for controlling the deadly invaders. Baker and his colleagues recently discovered that the chemical structure of lamprey sex hormones is unlike that of any other animal. This means their hormones bind exclusively to lamprey hormone receptors. This suggests it may be possible to develop a hormonal contraceptive that only targets female lampreys and no other species, which could reduce the population to a less destructive size.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.