Mollusc Biology & Culture


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Our group originated by the confluence of doctors Juan Peña and Carlos Saavedra in 1999. Our core activity focuses on the study of the genetic resources of commercial molluscs of interest in aquaculture, with two objectives: to evaluate these resources to improve shellfish management and culture, and to determine the impact that these activities may have on the genetic resources of the species. Ultimately, the goal is to reach a quality product through using environmentally responsible methods.



  •     Characterize the molecular genetic variability of commercial species of bivalves.
  •     Determine the interest of this variability for bivalve fisheries management.
  •     Determining the value of genetic variants for improving farming,through its relationship with relevant characters, such as growth rate or sexual maturation.
  •     Assess the effect of  culture practices on genetic variability of exploited bivalve populations.
  •     Captive breeding of marine gastropods



  •     Discovery of three genetic races of grooved carpet-shell clams(Cordero et al. 2013).
  •     Captive breeding of the endangered limpet Patella ferruginea:  crawling juveniles have been obtained for the first time.
  •     Development of genomic tools (massive sequencing, microarrays) in carpet-shell and Manila clams, in collaboration with three European laboratories (Leite et al 2013; Milan et al 2012; Tanguy et al 2008).
  •     First genetic characterization of commercial scallop species from South America (Saavedra and Peña 2006).
  •     Confirmation of the genetic identity of the Atlantic scallop (Pecten maximus) and Mediterranean scallop (P. jacobaeus) using mitochondrial DNA sequences (Saavedra and Peña 2005).



Commercial exploitation of bivalve molluscs is carried out by two strategies, shellfish and culture, which are often combined. As a result, the interaction between natural and cultured populations is very strong. The genetic variability of the populations can be affected by commercial exploitation, and in turn can be used to their advantage.

Our tools are classical genetic markers such as microsatellites or mitochondrial DNA, and novel genomic technologies such as microarrays.

Our activity focuses on
clams of the Tapetinae subfamily  and scallops. Clams is one of the most prized seafood types in Europe, and includes species such as the grooved carpet-shell clam (Ruditapes decussatus), the manila clam (R. philippinarum) and pullet carpet shell (Venerupis pullastra). Scallops are a family (Pectinidae) that includes king scallops (Pecten sp.), queen scallops (Aequipecten opercularis) and black scallops (Mimachlamys varia). In all these species, natural genetic variability is poorly known. In clams, the use of reproduction in hatcheries for restocking shellfish beds is a potential source of erosion of diversity. In scallops, morphological diversity is not coupled with genetic diversity, and is a source of taxonomic ambiguities that hinder fisheries management and marketing.

In addition, we are interested in the techniques of marine gastropods culture, whether commercial, such as abalone (Haliotis sp), or of environmental interest, such as the
endangered limpet Patella ferruginea. Secondarily, we worked on population genetics of other aquatic species of interest in aquaculture (the crustacean Artemia) or environmental biology (zebra mussel, Dreissena polymorpha). In the past, we have done research on natural spat collection and fattening techniques for scallop, and environmental ecotoxicology.