Blue mussels are one of the major aquaculture crops around the world and in the US, and about 80% of mussels consumed are grown through aquaculture. Mussels are typically harvested when their gonads are ripe, but before they spawn. Spawning is triggered by various temperature, chemical and tactile cues, and is currently not optimized for a year-round marketable supply.
In this project, researchers plan to develop a mussel variety that is sterile, making it possible for farmers to greatly extend their harvesting window and the amount of product they can bring to market. Sterile mussels could also reduce concerns about genetic contamination of wild populations, since the sterile mussels do not transmit their genes back into the wild.
Triploid mussels—which have an extra set of chromosomes compared to wild mussels—do not spawn. However, current methods to create triploid mussels in the lab lead to a population of only 20% diploid. In this project, researchers have proposed an alternate method to produce triploid larvae, by first creating mussels with four sets of chromosomes (tetraploid), which can more consistently produce triploid larvae when crossed with wild (diploid) stock.
The researchers will work directly with mussel farmers in southern California to test the methods in a business environment and train mussel farmers in the new techniques. They will also present results of the project to the public at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum in Los Angeles and the Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island.