Using genetics to unlock the growth potential of oysters


DNA insights into European flat oysters from a range of studies could inform selective breeding approaches for rare shellfish, to improve food security and sustainability.

Scientists from the Roslin Institute developed extensive genetic resources detailing the DNA of oysters and used them to help address the challenges facing this species in terms of conservation, restoration and aquaculture.

“Our findings could contribute to sustainable food production, as oysters have one of the lowest environmental impacts of any animal protein production,” said Dr. Tim Bean, oyster research expert at the Roslin Institute. .

The researchers found that two areas of the oyster genome are significantly associated with faster growth.

Incorporating genomic information into selection schemes could be a cost-effective way to improve growth traits such as weight and shell size in oysters, the scientists concluded.

A separate study, conducted by scientists from the University of Santiago de Compostela and involving experts from Roslin, discovered that variations in a region of oyster DNA may be associated with tolerance to a deadly parasite.

Reference genome

To help understand all the genetic information in their studies, the researchers decoded the complete DNA code of the European flat oyster.

Two high-quality reference genomes were constructed separately at the chromosomal level by Roslin’s team and scientists from the Sorbonne University in France.

Both genomes were published in Scalable applications and are already widely used by oyster farmers in Europe.

Growth characteristics

Scientists analyzed the genome of the European Olympia oyster to look for variations and assess whether growth traits are under genetic control and could therefore be improved by selective breeding.

This research, published in Frontiers in geneticsconcluded that it is possible to genetically improve the growth traits of oysters.

Parasite tolerance

In a separate study, scientists compared the genome of oysters that had not been exposed to the deadly parasite Bonamia ostreae with that of affected populations in the long term.

The team explored areas of the oyster genome previously linked to parasite resilience and identified an area strongly associated with parasite resilience.

The study was published in Scalable applications.

Oysters were once an abundant food source and a mainstay of the Scottish people, but have long been in decline. Research at the Roslin Institute, in collaboration with UK and European academics, industry, environmental charities and government scientists, has used genomics and genetic tools to help inform oyster breeding strategies Native European flat.

“High-quality reference genome assemblies are of immense value when applying genetic tools in aquaculture and conservation. Our genome assembly enhances the resources available for Olympia oyster research, argues ongoing conservation efforts and selective breeding programs, and improves our understanding of bivalve genome evolution,” said Roslin Institute postdoctoral researcher Dr. Manu Gundappa.

“Our study shows that breeding programs for flat oyster aquaculture and restoration would benefit from the incorporation of genetic information to identify the best breeding candidates, thereby accelerating genetic progress in key traits in a more sustainability,” said Dr. Carolina Peñaloza, Postdoctoral Researcher, Roslin Institute.


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