SOCORRO, N.M., Jan 4, 2000 - Dr. Daniel H. López, President of New Mexico Tech, announced today that a consortium of associated scientists has successfully tested Tech's patented non-toxic, all-natural, chile pepper-based repellent to help control the destructive impact of the rosy wolfsnail (Euglandia rosea). Rosy, a carnivorous snail which is native to the southeastern United States, has caused the total extinction of several snail species and threatens the extinction of additional snail species in Hawaii as well as other islands in the Pacific and Indian oceans. Conservationists are attempting to protect remaining snail populations by preventing Rosy's intrusion into non-infested areas and by protecting captive breeding colonies of endangered species. Tech's patented process molecularly bonds capsaicin, the natural "heat" of the chile pepper, into paints, stains, plastics, and other rubberized materials.
Roger Klocek, Director of Conservation at Chicago's John G. Shedd Aquarium and a specialist on the rosy wolfsnail, introduced the endangered species threat to Lorenzo Torres, an affiliate of New Mexico Tech who was instrumental in discovering and patenting the chile-based repellent. Klocek and Torres, along with Timothy A. Early of the Aquatic Research Institute in East Chicago, Indiana, participated in the design and implementation of the Euglandia rosea laboratory studies.
Dr. López stated: "We are particularly pleased that our process might make another significant contribution to our ecology by helping protect an endangered species that cannot protect itself." Klocek added, "These pilot studies certainly prove that rosy wolfsnails will not willingly cross materials containing the naturally repelling properties of chile pepper. By building special preserves surrounded by these materials we believe we can protect endangered snail species from the rosy wolfsnail. This could be a significant breakthrough." Field studies are currently being designed by Torres and Dr. Michael Hadfield, professor of zoology, University of Hawaii.
Earlier studies conducted by the Aquatic Research Institute demonstrated that zebra mussels were very effectively repelled by coatings created through Tech's patented process. Additional research conducted at New Mexico Tech and Texas A&M proved the efficacy of such repellents on a wide range of pests including rodents and other terrestrial mammals, a variety of saltwater species, wood-boring birds, and insects, including termites.
The patent is owned by New Mexico Tech Research Foundation, a not-for-profit institution which supports the scientific and research efforts of New Mexico Tech.