Cultivated scallops populations develop distinct genetic structure
Biologists at Bielefeld University publish analysis
The scallop is one of the largest edible molluscs, and gourmets consider it to be a great delicacy. To meet this demand, the fishing industry cultivates these shellfish in coastal aquafarms. In a new analysis, behavioural ecologists at Bielefeld University have confirmed that cultivated scallops developed their own genetic structure that differs from that of natural scallops. The biologists studied a total of nine populations of scallops (Pecten maximus) along the coast of Northern Ireland. They are presenting their results this Wednesday (8.2.2017) in the research journal ‘Royal Society Open Science’.
The researchers analysed the genetic architecture of the mollusc populations. ‘Studying the genetic architecture of animal populations helps us to understand which external appearance an organism can adopt – for example, how large a mollusc can become or whether it can develop red streaks on its surface,’ says David Vendrami. The doctoral student has analysed a total of 180 mollusc samples. The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute in Belfast (Northern Ireland) collected these in February 2015 during an excursion along the Northern Irish Atlantic coast.
The researchers have not just confirmed how breeding affects scallop populations. Their study also confirms that these molluscs adapt their shape and internal colouring very flexibly to conditions in their environment, and that they do this independently of whether they belong to the one cultivated or the eight natural populations. ‘We have tested how far genes relate to appearance. However, that is very probably not the case. It is highly likely that the external characteristics of the molluscs depend on their surroundings,’ says Vendrami.
In their future research, Hoffman, Vendrami, and their colleagues will be going beyond Northern Ireland and studying samples along the entire Atlantic coast from Norway to Portugal as well as in the Mediterranean. Their aim is to find out how scallops as well as other crustaceans react to different environmental conditions in terms of their growth.
For the current study, researchers at Bielefeld cooperated with a series of partners: the University of Cambridge (England), der University of Duisburg-Essen, the British Antarctic Survey research institute (Cambridge), and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute in Belfast (Northern Ireland).
David Vendrami is a member of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie action ‘Calcium in a Changing Environment’ (CACHE) in which ten doctoral students of different disciplines from all over Europe are studying Europe’s commercially most important molluscs. The action is being funded by the European Union. Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions are part of the European Union’s Framework Programme for Excellent Research and Innovation.
David L. J. Vendrami, Luca Telesca, Hannah Weigand, Martina Weiss, Katie Fawcett, Katrin Lehman, Melody S. Clark, Florian Leese, Carrie McMinn, Heather Moore, Joseph I. Hoffman: RAD sequencing resolves fine-scale population structure in a benthic invertebrate: implications for understanding phenotypic plasticity. Royal Society Open Science, http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.160548, published on the 8th of February 2017.
Further information is available online at:
Shellfish study published this month (uni.news on 28.6.2016): https://ekvv.uni-bielefeld.de/blog/uninews/entry/shellfish_study_published_this_month
David Vendrami, Bielefeld University
Faculty of Biology
Telephone: +49 521 106-2725