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DNA from mollusc shell: a valuable and underutilised substrate for genetic analyses

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posted on 2023-05-03, 16:52 authored by Sara Ferreira, Rachael AshbyRachael Ashby, Gert-Jan Jeunen, Kim Rutherford, Catherine Collins, Erica Todd, Neil Gemmell
Mollusc shells are an abundant resource that have been long used to predict the structures of ancient ecological communities, examine evolutionary processes, reconstruct paleoenvironmental conditions, track and predict responses to climatic change, and explore the movement of hominids across the globe. Despite the ubiquity of mollusc shell in many environments, it remains relatively unexplored as a substrate for molecular genetic analysis. Here we undertook a series of experiments using the New Zealand endemic greenshell mussel, Perna canaliculus, to explore the utility of fresh, aged, beach-cast and cooked mollusc shell for molecular genetic analyses. We find that reasonable quantities of DNA (0.002–21.48 ng/mg shell) can be derived from aged, beach-cast and cooked mussel shell and that this can routinely provide enough material to undertake PCR analyses of mitochondrial and nuclear gene fragments. Mitochondrial PCR amplification had an average success rate of 96.5% from shell tissue extracted thirteen months after the animal’s death. A success rate of 93.75% was obtained for cooked shells. Amplification of nuclear DNA (chitin synthase gene) was less successful (80% success from fresh shells, decreasing to 10% with time, and 75% from cooked shells). Our results demonstrate the promise of mollusc shell as a substrate for genetic analyses targeting both mitochondrial and nuclear genes.


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© 2020 Ferreira et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction and adaptation in any medium and for any purpose provided that it is properly attributed.


  • English

Does this contain Māori information or data?

  • No



Journal title





Ferreira, S., Ashby, R., Jeunen, G.-J., Rutherford, K., Collins, C., Todd, E. V., & Gemmell, N. J. (2020). DNA from mollusc shell: a valuable and underutilised substrate for genetic analyses. PeerJ, 8, e9420. doi:10.7717/peerj.9420

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