Landscape Genetics

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Landscape Genetics of Atlantic Slope Freshwater

sampling freshwater mussel tissue, photo by Kira Hawk

This multidisciplinary project relates genetic variation of three mussel species with features of the environment under which each has evolved to provide new perspectives on the analysis and conservation of biodiversity in freshwater mussels. Management of declining freshwater mussel species is hampered by a lack of information on life history, effects of anthropogenic activities, and genetic population structure. Even when the population structure of a species has been explored, it is difficult to interpret observed differentiation as reflecting localized environmental adaptation, a population bottleneck, or normal patterns of spatial differentiation. This project will take a landscape genetics approach to examine the genetic structure of mussels species with highly fragmented (Alasimdonta heterodon), clustered (Anodonta implicata), and ubiquitous (Elliptio complanata) distributions and relate genetic variation to environmental conditions within Atlantic slope rivers. As a relatively new field, landscape genetics allows analysis of population subdivision and gene-flow on a scale relevant to conservation biology and natural resource management, thus providing important insights into the genetic consequences of habitat fragmentation, the effects of natural and man-made barriers on gene flow, and the potential genetic and demographic impacts of transplantation efforts. The results will provide information necessary for examining gene expression across environmental gradients and potential barriers to gene flow.


Relevant Publications:

Ward, R., K.M. Shaw, S.T. Small and W.A. Lellis. 2010. Development and characterization of microsatellite loci in Elliptio complanata, (Mollusca:Unionidae) and cross-species amplification within the genus Elliptio. Conservation Genetics Resources 2:131-134.

Shaw, K.M., T.L. King, W.A. Lellis and M.S. Eackles. 2006. Isolation and characterization of microsatellite loci in Alasmidonta heterodon (Bivalvia: Unionidae). Molecular Ecology Notes 6:365-367.

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