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Development of a novel ageing method for European lobsters

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Development of a novel ageing method for European lobsters

Most fish and molluscs can be aged by counting growth rings laid down in hard calcified structures such as otoliths (ear bones of fish) or shells. In contrast, crustaceans cannot be aged accurately as they periodically lose and replace most of these hard, calcified structures when they moult. This presents a problem for ensuring the sustainable exploitation of crustacean fisheries, because without information on age structure, it is impossible to reliably-predict population growth and resilience to harvesting. Consequently, a reliable and accurate ageing method is urgently needed for crustacean fisheries management and would have considerable economic and conservation impacts. Recently, several studies in organisms as varied as humans and zebrafish have suggested that the accumulation of epigenetic marks (methylation of CpG sites) in DNA can be used as an accurate measure of chronological age.  In this project, we will test the utility of such epigenetic markers for determining chronological age in the European lobster.

The development of such a model will allow accurate ageing of lobster populations in the wild which will allow the age structure of the stock to be estimated and will therefore facilitate more sustainable stock management.  Moreover, a DNA based assay is non-invasive and does not require the sacrifice of any samples to conduct the test.

For more information about this work, please email

Posted by Sam West on Wed, 25 Nov 2020

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