We illustrate a method for delaying and possibly eliminating the evolution of non-responsiveness to the treatments now used to control pest populations. Using simulations and estimates of the variance in relative fitness, i.e., the opportunity for selection, in a rat-like mammal, we show that the selection responsible for the evolution of non-responsiveness to pesticides and sterility-inducers, is similar in its action to sexual selection, and for this reason can be orders of magnitude stronger than that which exists for untreated populations. In contrast, we show that when contraceptives are used to reduce the fertility of a pest species, with non-responders embedded within such populations, the opportunity for selection favoring non-responsiveness is reduced to that which is expected by chance alone. In pest species with separate sexes, we show that efforts to control pest populations or to mitigate selection favoring non-responsiveness, are likely to be ineffective when members of one sex are sterilized or killed. We also show that while mating preferences can impede the rate at which resistance evolves, they are more likely to accelerate this process, arguing against the use of sterile male approaches for controlling pests. Our results suggest that contraceptives are more effective at controlling pest populations and slowing the evolution of non-responsiveness than treatments that cause sterilization or death in target species. Furthermore, our results indicate that contraceptives that work differentially on each sex will be most effective in mitigating selection favoring non-responders. Our results have significant implications for the development and application of treatments to manage pests, now and into the future.
- Mathematical biosciences
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