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Genetic diversity and species identification in the endangered white abalone(Haliotis sorenseni)

Gruenthal, K.M., Burton, R.S.
Conservation genetics 2005 v.6 no.6 pp. 929-939
DNA, Haliotis sorenseni, Mendelian inheritance, abalone, adults, breeding stock, crossing, dredging, endangered species, genes, genetic markers, genetic variation, genotype, interspecific variation, microsatellite repeats, rearing, sequence analysis, species diversity, species identification, United States
In 2001, the white abalone Haliotis sorenseni became the first marine invertebrate in United States waters to receive federal protection as an endangered species. Prior to the endangered species listing, 20 abalone were collected as potential broodstock for a captive rearing program. Using DNA from these animals, we have developed genetic markers, including five nuclear microsatellite loci and partial sequences of one nuclear (VERL) and two mitochondrial (COI and CytB) genes, to assess genetic variability in the species, aid in species identification, and potentially track the success of future outplanting of captive-reared animals. All five microsatellite loci were polymorphic and followed expectations of simple Mendelian inheritance in laboratory crosses. Each of the wild-caught adult abalone exhibited a unique composite microsatellite genotype, suggesting that significant genetic variation remains in natural populations. A combination of nuclear and mitochondrial gene sequencing demonstrated that one of the original wild-caught animals was, in fact, not a white abalone, but H. kamtschatkana (possibly subspecies assimilis). Similarly, another animal of uncertain identity accidentally collected by dredging was also shown to be H. kamtschatkana. Inclusion of these two animals as broodstock could have resulted in unintentional hybridizations detrimental to the white abalone recovery program. Molecular genetic identifications will be useful both in preventing broodstock contamination and as markers for future restocking operations.