Abstract: The neuroendocrine processes that regulate invertebrate communication, behaviour and reproduction are multifactorial and dependent on the interaction of several endocrine organs and their products. From a greater understanding of these processes through gene analysis or protein expression, receptor characterisation and targeted peptide interference, we now know that the neuroendocrine processes found in macro invertebrates are well conserved and have more or less similar roles. For example, using the crustacean as our model, differential gene expression studies have shown for the first time that certain neuropeptides like the moult-inhibiting hormone (MIH), may dually regulate a female crab’s ability to moult, while at the same time operating as a gonad stimulating hormone. Neuropeptides may also be secreted from marine and terrestrial molluscs and have bioactivity as animal-animal signalling molecules; examples include peptide pheromones that regulate larval settlement in abalone, oyster spawning, and the production of pheromones leading to sperm storage in hermaphroditic snails. As our knowledge of bioactive peptides rapidly expands due to the introduction of next-generation sequencing, sensitive mass spectrometry methods and bioinformatics, it has been predicted that up to 200 different peptides may be present in any one species. Such is the significance of bioactive neuropeptides in almost every aspect of invertebrate physiology that they provide excellent candidates for which to develop similar strategies to understand the physical and biological drivers of crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks. This presentation will provide an overview of my research past, present, and future plans to take on one of Australia’s most well-known and destructive pests.
Biography: Graduating in 2011 from Deakin University, Dr Michael Stewart has a background in research that encompasses a variety of genomic and proteomic approaches to understand the molecular basis of communication, development and reproduction in crustaceans and molluscs. Specifically being spermatogenesis and moulting processes in the sand crab, vitellogenesis in prawns, and chemical cues in abalone larvae. In his short time at the University of the Sunshine Coast, he has been investigating the phenomena of dart shooting and paternity success rates in the Mediterranean snail Theba pisana, while being actively involved in extended projects in oysters, and eyestalk regeneration in crayfish. Being an inaugural winner of the Grains Research Development Corporation (GRDC) Innovation and Investment grant, his future research focus is now devoted to the manipulation of key biological processes in invasive molluscs to develop new tools for pest control.