Human-raised shellfish are more resistant to extinction

The various species of shellfish eaten by humans live in a wide area Diversity of climate zones and are distributed in a variety of ecosystems around the world. Their adaptability boosted their resilience to extinction, according to a new study published in nature communication. In fact, many of the traits that make these mussel species attractive to humans are common to them as well danger of extinction be less.

“The fossil record tells us that the species most at risk of extinction are those with smaller geographic ranges, inhabiting waters with narrow temperature ranges, and come from biological groups already known to have high ‘natural’ rates of extinction . ‘” he tells SINC Edie Stewart from the Smithsonian Institution (USA).

The study found that people tend to breed large shallow-water mussels to take up space wide geographical area and survive at different temperatures. These last two traits also make most exploited mussel species less vulnerable to the pressures and dangers that have removed other species from the fossil record.

The species most likely to disappear are those with smaller geographic ranges and waters with narrow temperature ranges.

Stewart Edie of the Smithsonian Institution

“It’s somewhat ironic that some of the traits that make clam species less vulnerable to extinction also make them much more attractive as a food source, given that they’re larger and found in shallower water,” he said. Shan Huangfrom the University of Birmingham.

At the same time, the authors of this paper warn that the human demand It can endanger them and the ecosystems they are part of. “Humans can change the environment in an instant. We need to manage these species sustainably so that they will be available for generations to come,” emphasizes Edie.

Researchers also identified certain marine regions as of particular concern for management and conservation. Currently exploited species with these traits are concentrated in the tropics eastern Atlantic and on the temperate coasts of Northeast and Southeast Pacific.

It is somewhat ironic that some of the traits that make mussel species less vulnerable also make them far more attractive as food.

Shan Huang from the University of Birmingham

“Roughly 40% of the 120 species fished in these areas have a… compared to all species in Europe intrinsic vulnerability to an above-average extinction. Of course, this intrinsic measure does not take into account the combined effects of human-caused stressors on individual populations. Just the general ability of a species to withstand disturbance and stress, an approach we find useful as a framework.”

801 species are exploited worldwide

After studying the scientific literature and realizing that there is no complete list of all these species, Edie and her team set out to document the diversity used by humans.

In this way, they drastically expanded the list of shellfish known to be farmed, such as clams, oysters, mussels or scallops. There are a total of 801 species of this species, a number that represents a significant increase compared to estimates by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) database, which recorded 720.

Responsible fishing can diversify harvests and prevent oysters from becoming the dodos of the sea

Stewart Edie of the Smithsonian Institution

“Human impact may therefore result in the most resilient species being disproportionately wiped out. By identifying them and recognizing them globally, responsible fishing can diversify the species harvested and prevent oysters from becoming the world’s dodos at sea,” says Edie.

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There are examples like Estero Bay, Florida, where the native Calusa tribe sustainably harvested some 18.6 billion oysters and built an entire island and 30-foot-tall mounds out of their shells.

“It is estimated that the Calusa tribe harvested these millions of oysters sustainably over many years, proving that natural populations can adapt to harvest when the environment is healthy – an important consideration given the current ocean situation.” , he explains.

Overexploitation can lead to collapse

But the history of human mussel fishing is also littered with signs of overfishing, largely due to European settlers and mechanized commercial fishing, leading to the collapse of oyster populations in places like the Chesapeaken Bay (USA), San Francisco Bay (USA) and the Botany Bay near Sydney (Australia).

Habitat destruction has almost certainly affected exploited mussels as well

Edie Stewart

“Habitat destruction has almost certainly affected exploited mussels. The sharp decline in oyster reefs due to deteriorating coastal water quality is a striking example. “The dredging of the seabed can destroy the habitat of many other species that live on the continental shelves,” says the scientist.

The Start sustainability it is important to maintain viable populations, meaning that they are not depleted faster than they can reproduce naturally. “Shifting much of the catch to captive populations could be a way to meet demand while reducing the impact of exploitation on natural populations and their habitats,” argues the Smithsonian scientist.

Data to improve their conservation

After collecting all of the species named in more than 100 previous studies, the researchers began examining possible similarities and patterns. With this data, they hope to improve that conservation decisions and their management in the future. Specifically, their list includes regions and species that are particularly threatened with extinction. Similarly, the list can help identify species that require further study to assess their current risk of extinction.

“We want to use the insights from this study to identify any harvested mussels that we don’t know about yet.” Manage populations effectively“We need to have a complete picture,” he concludes.

The research supports the Smithsonian’s Life on a Sustainable Planet initiative, a major effort to collect and implement new data on the changing planet holistic approaches and work to protect the environment at multiple levels, educating the world about why and how sustainable solutions to climate change can benefit people and nature.


Stewart Edie et al. “Diversity, distribution, and intrinsic extinction risk of exploited sea shells”. nature communication

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