Optimising hatchery practices for genetic improvement of marine bivalves

Jennifer C. Nascimento-Schulze1, Tim Bean, Ross Houston, Eduarda M. Santos, Matthew B Sanders, Ceri Lewis, Robert P. Ellis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aquaculture currently accounts for approximately half of all seafood produced and is the fastest growing farmed food sector globally. Marine bivalve aquaculture, the farming of oysters, mussels and clams, represents a highly sustainable component of this industry and has major potential for global expansion via increased efficiency, and numbers of, production systems. Artificial spat propagation (i.e. settled juveniles) in hatcheries and selective breeding have the potential to offer rapid and widespread gains for molluscan aquaculture industry. However, bivalves have unique life-histories, genetic and genomic characteristics, which present significant challenges to achieving such genetic improvement. Selection pressures experienced by bivalve larvae and spat in the wild contribute to drive population structure and animal fitness. Similarly, domestication selection is likely to act on hatchery-produced spat, the full implications of which have not been fully explored. In this review we outline the key features of these taxa and production practices applied in bivalve aquaculture which have the potential to affect the genetic and phenotypic variability of hatchery-propagated stock. Alongside, we compare artificial and natural processes experienced by bivalves to investigate the possible consequences of hatchery propagation on stock production. In addition, we identify key areas of investigation that need to be prioritized to continue to the advancement of bivalve genetic improvement via selective breeding. The growing accessibility of next generation sequencing technology and high-powered computational capabilities facilitate the implementation of novel genomic tools in breeding programs of aquatic species. These emerging techniques represent an exciting opportunity for sustainably expanding the bivalve aquaculture sector.
Original languageEnglish
JournalReviews in Aquaculture
Publication statusPublished - 7 May 2021


  • genomic selection
  • marine bivalve aquaculture
  • sustainable development,
  • selective breeding
  • gene-environment interactions

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