With the progress of science, breeding animals have become even easier. The process has become
faster and efficient to breed cows that give milk, bigger pigs, and sheep with thick layers of wool.
Katie Lotterhos, an assistant professor of Marine and Environmental Sciences at Northeastern
University, thought of applying the same method to breed oysters.
There has been an increased contribution of oyster hatcheries to breed oysters that are meatier or
have a specific shell type. However, the briney bivalves of the oysters are facing a threat due to the
warming oceans and various parasitic diseases. Even though the traits that can make the oysters
melt in your mouth and survive in this environment are scarce, shellfish genetics is trying to make
the oyster industry relive its vigour.
12 researchers from various institutions have opened a group called Eastern Oyster Breeding
Consortium that specialises in breeding Crassostrea virginica, a special kind of oyster found from the
Atlantic coast of Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The group recently received a grant from the Atlantic
States Marine Fisheries Commission to guide hatcheries to breed the right kind of oysters. Lotterhos
is also a part of this group of researchers.
Over the years, the researchers have come to the conclusion that the oysters have different
adaptation grounds even when they are all of the same species. For example, oysters living in the
mouth of the river might be adapted to less salty water, while those living in the south might be well
adjusted to warm water.
Oysters are often referred to as spawners as they release eggs and sperms into the water when
the timing is right and hoping that it works out. However, in these hatcheries, the oysters were
provided with their respective adaptive environments for them to breed well. Lotterhos says, “Once
you know which genetic markers contribute to certain traits, like disease resistance, you can use
individuals that have those markers in the breeding process.”
These hatcheries aim to provide customers with the best quality adapters while adapting to the
changing condition of the oceans. They hope that this research will provide a breathing chance to
the oysters that are at the brink of extinction.