CAREER: Physiological Genetics of the Dwarf Surf Clam, Mulinia lateralis
Author(s)Rawson, Paul D.
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AbstractHeterosis, or hybrid vigor, is a condition where more heterozygous individuals physiologically outperform more homozygous individuals. Although heterosis has often been reported for marine bivalves, as well as other taxa, the physiological and genetic bases of heterosis are still poorly understood. The proposed research will use a combination of quantitative and molecular genetic approaches to examine the physiological and genetic underpinnings of heterosis in the dwarf surf clam, Mulinia lateralis. The specific goals of this work are: 1) to determine the genetic and physiological basis of growth rate variation, 2) to estimate the degree to which the physiological components of growth are genetically correlated, 3) to determine whether levels of heterozygosity are significantly associated with physiological performance under both stressful and non-stressful conditions, and 4) to determine the importance of inbreeding to any association between heterozygosity and physiological performance in M. lateralis. Three separate educational activities will be integrated with these research goals. First, M. lateralis will be used as a teaching model for a laboratory section to accompany the graduate level course in quantitative genetics currently taught at the University of Maine. Second, an internship will be established that will enable high school teachers and students to directly participate in the proposed research and gain hands-on training in molecular biology, bivalve husbandry, and quantitative genetics. Third, a summer content institute in genetics for secondary science teachers will be developed. This institute is intended to help teachers keep pace with the rapid advances in genetic research and effectively communicate these advances to their students. Along with the summer genetics institute, a series of pilot projects will be established in local schools exploring the most effective way to use M. lateralis as a model for demonstrating bivalve physiology, ecology, and genetics in a manner consistent with state and national standards.