Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Virginia Institute of Marine Science


A panel of 48 single nucleotide polymorphism markers (SNPs) was developed for use in a population genetic analysis of the Eastern Oyster Crassostrea virginica sampled from the lower Chesapeake Bay. The SNPs were developed from published and unpublished sequencing data and developed to be used on a Fluidigm Biomark. A selection of 95 SNPs were chosen initially for development and the best 48 were selected for downstream applications. This project was a collaboration with the non-profit Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) to examine their oyster reef restoration project in the Lafayette River, Virginia. The CBF wanted to test a hydrodynamic connectivity model designed to predict where oyster larvae produced in the Lafayette River would settle within the river. To test the model, oysters from Tangier Island, VA and the Haskin NEH hatchery strain were planted in the Lafayette River at locations corresponding to locations within the model with the expectation that the oysters would spawn the following summer. Baseline geographic oyster samples were taken from the nearby rivers; the Lafayette, Elizabeth and James Rivers before deployment of the planted test oysters. Newly recruited oyster spat were sampled from the Lafayette River in the summer following deployment of the planted test oysters. The baseline samples and spat were genotyped and compared to each other with the panel of 48 SNPs. Assignment tests were performed to identify the source population(s) for the spat. There was no population structure defined by FST values among oysters sampled from the lower Chesapeake Bay. The Haskin NEH oysters were genetically different from the other oysters in the study; however, the Tangier Island oysters were not different from the oysters in the lower Chesapeake Bay. The low FST values among the oysters from the lower Chesapeake Bay suggest that the connectivity of the reefs is high. The hydrodynamics of the region mix drifting larvae produced by oysters across the region as seen in the genotypic profile of the spat recovered in the Lafayette River. Heterozygote deficiencies suggestive of a Wahlund effect were observed; however, high rates of migration likely work to counterbalance stable population substructure. Alternatively, the heterozygote deficiencies could represent hidden variation not accessible by the methods used in this thesis. Some population structure exists with increasing geographic distance consistent with a pattern of isolation by distance among the populations sampled for this project. Assignment tests did not identify any spat as a product of the NEH oysters and assignment of spat to Tangier Island origin is inconclusive. The genetic data obtained were not able to provide unequivocal support for the predictions of oyster spat distributions by the connectivity model, although, the data do support the overall circulation patterns in the region predicted by the model.



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