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Genomic tools and selective breeding in molluscs

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


The production of most farmed molluscs, including mussels, oysters, scallops, abalone, and clams, is heavily dependent on natural seed from the plankton. Closing the lifecycle of species in hatcheries can secure independence from wild stocks and enables long-term genetic improvement of broodstock through selective breeding. Genomic techniques have the potential to revolutionize hatchery-based selective breeding by improving our understanding of the characteristics of mollusc genetics that can pose a challenge for intensive aquaculture and by providing a new suite of tools for genetic improvement. Here we review characteristics of the life history and genetics of molluscs including high fecundity, self-fertilization, high genetic diversity, genetic load, high incidence of deleterious mutations and segregation distortion and critically assess their impact on the design and effectiveness of selective breeding strategies. A survey of the results of current breeding programs in the literature show that selective breeding with inbreeding control is likely the best strategy for genetic improvement of most molluscs, and on average growth rate can be improved by 10% per generation and disease resistance by 15% per generation across the major farmed species by implementing individual or family-based selection. Rapid advances in sequencing technology have resulted in a wealth of genomic resources for key species with the potential to greatly improve hatchery-based selective breeding of molluscs. In this review, we catalogue the range of genomic resources currently available for molluscs of aquaculture interest and discuss the bottlenecks, including lack of high-quality reference genomes and the relatively high cost of genotyping, as well as opportunities for applying genomics-based selection.


Original languageEnglish
Article number253
Number of pages15
JournalFrontiers in Genetics
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jul 2018

    Research areas

  • Aquaculture, Genomics, SNP genotyping, Heritability, Marker assisted selection, Genomic selection, Molluscs, Selective breeding

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