Genetics & Breeding


Selective breeding is one of the cornerstones for improving production in agriculture and, increasingly, many aquaculture species.  Breeding has had an especially strong role in helping advance oyster aquaculture in Virginia and the surrounding area by producing selected varieties that have high survival and predicable gains over and above wild oysters.  The Aquaculture Genetics and Breeding Center (ABC) houses the VIMS program for genetic improvement, while other genetic capabilities are found among several departments at VIMS for population genetics and phylogenetic studies.  In addition to genetic improvement and research, the breeding program maintains a strong link to industry allowing involvement in any number of practical issues affecting shellfish production.  This link is maintained both through the distribution of genetically improved material to hatcheries and an active Industry Advisory Committee to ABC.

Major Current Research Projects

Breeding diploid C. virgininca: deployment of genetic families and measurement of heritabilities, genetic correlations, and EBV’s (Drs. Moss Small and Kube of CSIRO)

Breeding tetraploid C. virginica: establishing the genetic parameters important for improving breeding populations of tetraploids for use in commercial production of triploids (Drs. Allen and Kube)

Triploid oyster mortality: identifying the major variable contributing to exceptional mortality occurring in some all-triploid populations of C. virginica (Dr. Guévélou)

Tetraploid high health: examining the variable associated with conditioning tetraploid for spawning among commercial hatcheries (Dr. Allen)

Cytogenetics of polyploidy C. virginica: determining heritability of chromosome loss (Dr. Sousa)

Development of NIRS: Incorporating near-infrared spectroscopy to identify important genetic traits for breeding and physiology of oysters (Dr. Guévélou)

Principle Investigators

Dr. Standish K. Allen: polyploidy shellfish, breeding
Dr. Jessica Moss Small: management of breeding programs
Dr. Joana Sousa: cytogenics of bivalves and improvement of hatchery production
Dr. Eric Guévélou: physiology and reproduction, cell and molecular biology, biochemistry