[ASC-media] Does my asinina look big in these genes?

Niall Byrne niall at scienceinpublic.com.au
Tue Jul 15 02:58:32 CEST 2008

Here is today's story from Fresh Science 2008
Does my asinina look big in these genes? 
15 July 2008 

The world's fastest growing abalone-the tropical donkey's ear abalone,
Haliotis asinina-can be bred to grow rapidly and reliably for
aquaculture, Queensland biologists have found. And that makes it
potentially a high value alternative crop for struggling prawn farmers.

The researchers looked at whether they could speed up breeding of
abalone for aquaculture using modern technology to identify and select
genes that are activated in fast-growing animals. By linking the
abundance of specific genes with fast growth rates, they have now shown
their proposal is practical.

"If we can select breeding individuals who grow rapidly, the chances are
that they have the right underlying genetic instruction manual, which
can be passed on, ensuring their progeny grow fast as well," says Tim
Lucas from the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and
Fisheries, who worked on the project with Prof Bernie Degnan of the
University of Queensland.

The work has already demonstrated that growth rate is highly
heritable-that fast-growing animals from the wild are likely to lead to
fast-growing progeny in aquaculture. And the researchers have also
developed methods for a simple blood test to measure the abundance of
rapid-growth genes in wild abalone. This opens the possibility of
pre-selecting fast-growing broodstock, reducing the level of undesirable
genes from the start.

"Using these molecular techniques to select individuals for breeding
rather than traditional physical traits, we can get one step closer to
the fundamental genetic differences that control growth rate," Tim says.

"It is difficult to go out onto the reef, tag and release abalone, and
physically measure growth as it's occurring. Using these molecular
tools, however, we can take a blood sample and determine the activity of
the growth genes. That immediately provides us with a snapshot of how
fast individuals are growing at a particular point in time."

The availability of these molecular tools increases the feasibility of
farming donkey's ear abalone in Australia, leading to rapid improvements
in profitability.

"Not only are donkey's ear abalone potentially of high value, but they
are also plant-eaters," Tim says. "This is important because it means
they could provide a sustainable alternative option for tropical prawn
farmers who are currently struggling to compete with cheaper imports and
the soaring price of fishmeal."

Because all abalone species are closely related and share most of their
genes, says Degnan, it is likely the findings of the research team could
also be applied to the more lucrative temperate abalone aquaculture
industries in Australia and around the world.

Tim Lucas is one of 16 early-career scientists chosen for Fresh Science,
a national program sponsored by the Federal and Victorian governments.
He is presenting his research to the public for the first time.

Media contacts: Tim Lucas on 07 3400 2052 or 0438 102 844 or
tim.lucas at dpi.qld.gov.au; Sarah Brooker on 0413 332 489; and Niall Byrne
on 0417 131 977 or niall at freshscience.org

Photos and background at www.freshscience.org




Niall Byrne

Science in Public


ph +61 (3) 9398 1416 or 0417 131 977

niall at scienceinpublic.com.au <mailto:niall at scienceinpublic.com.au> 

Full contact details at www.scienceinpublic.com


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