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Genetic resources in wild and cultured stocks of the Asian mud crab, Scylla paramamosain

By Van Chi Le


The mud crab (Scylla spp.) aquaculture industry has expanded rapidly in recent years in many countries in the Indo - West Pacific (IWP) region as an alternative to marine shrimp culture because of significant disease outbreaks and associated failures of many shrimp culture industries in the region. Currently, practices used to produce and manage breeding crabs in hatcheries may compromise levels of genetic diversity, ultimately compromising growth rates, disease resistance and stock productivity. Therefore, to avoid “genetic pollution” and its harmful effects and to promote further development of mud crab aquaculture and fisheries in a sustainable way, a greater understanding of the genetic attributes of wild and cultured mud crab stocks is required. Application of these results can provide benefits for managing wild and cultured Asian mud crab populations for multiple purposes including for commercial production, recreation and conservation and to increase profitability and sustainability of newly emerging crab culture industries. Phylogeographic patterns and the genetic structure of Asian mud crab populations across the IWP were assessed to determine if they were concordant with those of other widespread taxa possessing pelagic larvae of relatively long duration. A 597 bp fragment of the mitochondrial DNA COI gene was amplified and screened for variation in a total of 297 individuals of S. paramamosain from six sampling sites across the species’ natural geographical distribution in the IWP and 36 unique haplotypes were identified. Haplotype diversities per site ranged from 0.516 to 0.879. Nucleotide diversity estimates among haplotypes were 0.11% – 0.48%. Maximum divergence observed among S. paramamosain samples was 1.533% and samples formed essentially a single monophyletic group as no obvious clades were related to geographical location of sites. A weak positive relationship was observed however, between genetic distance and geographical distance among sites. Microsatellite markers were then used to assess contemporary gene flow and population structure in Asian mud crab populations sampled across their natural distribution in the IWP. Eight microsatellite loci were screened in sampled S. paramamosain populations and all showed high allelic diversity at all loci in sampled populations. In total, 344 individuals were analysed, and 304 microsatellite alleles were found across the 8 loci. The mean number of alleles per locus at each site ranged from 20.75 to 28.25. Mean allelic richness per site varied from 17.2 to 18.9. All sites showed high levels of heterozygosity as average expected heterozygosities for all loci ranged from 0.917 – 0.953 while mean observed heterozygosity ranged from 0.916 – 0.959. Allele diversities were similar at all sites and across all loci. The results did not show any evidence for major differences in allele frequencies among sites and patterns of allele frequencies were very similar in all populations across all loci. Estimates of population differentiation (FST) were relatively low and most probably largely reflect intra – individual variation for very highly variable loci. Results from nDNA analysis showed evidence for only very limited population genetic structure among sampled S. paramamosain, and a positive and significant association for genetic and geographical distance among sample sites. Microsatellite markers were then employed to determine if adequate levels of genetic diversity has been captured in crab hatcheries for the breeding cycle. The results showed that all microsatellite loci were polymorphic in hatchery samples. Culture populations were in general, highly genetically depauperate, compared with comparable wild populations, with only 3 to 8 alleles recorded for the same loci set per population. In contrast, very high numbers of alleles per locus were found in reference wild S. paramamosain populations, which ranged from 18 to 46 alleles per locus per population. In general, this translates into a 3 to 10 fold decline in mean allelic richness per locus in all culture stocks compared with wild reference counterparts. Furthermore, most loci in all cultured S. paramamosain samples showed departures from HWE equilibrium. Allele frequencies were very different in culture samples from that present in comparable wild reference samples and this in particular, was reflected in a large decline in allele diversity per locus. The pattern observed was best explained by significant impacts of breeding practices employed in hatcheries rather than natural differentiation among wild populations used as the source of brood stock. Recognition of current problems and management strategies for the species both for the medium and long-term development of the new culture industry are discussed. The priority research to be undertaken over the medium term for S. paramamosain should be to close the life cycle fully to allow individuals to be bred on demand and their offspring equalised to control broodstock reproductive contributions. Establishing a broodstock register and pedigree mating system will be required before any selection program is implemented. This will ensure that sufficient genetic variation will be available to allow genetic gains to be sustainably achieved in a future stock improvement program. A fundamental starting point to improve hatchery practices will be to encourage farmers and hatchery managers to spawn more females in their hatcheries as it will increase background genetic diversity in culture stocks. Combining crablet cohorts from multiple hatcheries into a single cohort for supply to farmers or rotation of breeding females regularly in hatcheries will help to address immediate genetic diversity problems in culture stocks. Application of these results can provide benefits for managing wild and cultured Asian mud crab populations more efficiently. Over the long-term, application of data on genetic diversity in wild and cultured stocks of Asian mud crab will contribute to development of sustainable and productive culture industries in Vietnam and other countries in the IWP and can contribute towards conservation of wild genetic resources

Topics: Asian mud crab, Scylla paramamosain, genetic resources
Publisher: Queensland University of Technology
Year: 2010
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.qut.edu.au:39232

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