Wednesday, 13 May 2020

New test identifies lobster hybrids

Date: May 11, 2020
Source: University of Exeter

Scientists have developed a test that can identify hybrids resulting from crossbreeding between European and American lobsters.

American lobsters have occasionally escaped or been released into European waters after being imported for the seafood market.

Experts have long feared they could threaten European lobsters by introducing disease or establishing as an invasive species.

Hybridisation -- when a "pure" species is threatened at a genetic level via interbreeding with a different but related species -- had been less of a concern because lab studies suggested European and American lobsters were reluctant to mate.

However, when an American lobster female was found bearing eggs in a fjord in Sweden, University of Exeter researchers tested the offspring and found they were "clearly distinct" from both European and American lobsters.

"We had just developed a genetic test for seafood traceability that could separate any American lobsters mislabelled as more expensive European equivalents once they've been cooked and shell colouration is no longer a useful indicator of the species," said Dr Charlie Ellis, of the University of Exeter.

"What we found when we tested these offspring is that they came out exactly in the middle of this separation -- half American and half European -- so these lobsters were hybrids."

This has potentially concerning implications for the lobster industry and conservation efforts, and Dr Ellis says further research is required to assess the extent of the threat.

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