Likely targets for immunocontraception in marsupials
John C. Rodger
Cooperative Research Centre for Conservation and Management of Marsupials, Marsupial CRC, Macquarie University, NSW 2109, Australia.
There is a growing need to manage marsupial populations as a means to mitigate economic and environmental damage and resolve animal welfare problems. In Australia, the problems of population management are highly specific and localized. In contrast, in New Zealand the problem is the control of the many millions of widely-distributed brushtail possums which are the country’s major vertebrate pest. The needs of the two countries are thus very different but immunocontraception may provide an effective and humane alternative to current lethal control strategies. This paper discusses the features of marsupial reproduction and development that offer potential as targets for immunocontraceptive interference, including: (1) sperm production and maturation in the male; (2) sperm transport and maturation in the female; and (3) sperm and egg antigens and the early embryo. Some of these antigen targets are shared with eutherian mammals but others are likely to be unique to marsupials.