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Genetics of Wild vs. Farmed Oysters

By Susannah Black
April 1, 2015

by Zain Bin Khalid

Marine Biology Research Program

Project Partner: Cezanne Bies

Advised by: Mauricio González

Mentored by: Prof. Matt Hare, Cornell University

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On Sunday 3/22/15 at around 7 a.m. Mauricio González, Director of the Marine Biology Research Program, collected approximately 25 wild Eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) at the mouth of the Bronx River at low tide. “You could see many oysters in the rocky/sandy shore exposed by the tide.  I walked approximately 40 feet for the complete sample,” Mauricio reported.


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At this point in time the oysters were placed in the Aquaculture lab and are now being prepared to be farmed by members of the Aquaculture CTE. Once they are, we will take the juvenile wild oysters and the juvenile farmed oysters and place them in mesh cages outside and let them mature for some time. Afterwards we will take them out and get tissue samples so we can look for differences in their DNA. We are going to use that data to see which is better adapted to the waterways of NYC.

We hypothesize that that the wild batch will be more successful since they are native and have already been surviving the harsh conditions of the water, this is unlike the farmed batch, which are raised in clean water and afterwards are put in a rather filthy and rough environment (in other words the Hudson River).  We also hypothesize that there’ll be genetic differences between wild and farmed oysters due to the decades of selective breeding in farmed oysters.

This is important because our results can be used to make the BOP more efficient. If we do find significant genetic differences in the wild oysters it’s possible we may be able to use that data to genetically modify the farmed oysters. These genetic modifications may vary from growth rate to survivorship and so on. This would mean a lot in the long terms of the BOP. Say we find differences that show better growth rate- that means an oyster will grow faster.  Those differences might mean that, say, in the course of a year instead of raising “x” amount of oyster you can raise “x + 20 ( or whatever other number you get.)”  The point is you get more oysters in to the water. More oysters=more filtering…so cleaner water.

The effect this can have on the BOP will vary and until we have more data we can’t say for sure. However should this project not work out we can use data from this project to find a different approach to the same problem (which group is better adapted to the conditions of the Hudson)

For a presentation of related research, see here