How can information about genetics help speed up the mussel breeding programme at the Cawthron Institute?
Henry Kaspar (We know very little about the genetics of the mussel, if you compare that to what we know about other important production animals like cattle beasts. Knowing the genetics of the mussel will allow us to do more advanced selective breeding.
We’re basically just selectively in breeding in a very simple, almost primitive way. Genetic research will teach us how exactly the genetics of a mussel translate into the mussel itself and that will allow us to use different tools for selective breeding. For example, if we know exactly how certain traits are regulated at a genetic level, we can then look for the genetics rather than for the phenotype, which is the expression of the genetics.
We can look for markers in the genome which tell us that the mussel is particularly good tasting or fast growing or good looking and then, rather then waiting until the mussel has grown and demonstrated its good characteristics, we look at the genome right at the beginning, when it’s a larva, and we say this is a good mussel or it’s a bad mussel. That is called marker-assisted selection.