Nucella lapillus (L.) provides an ideal model for investigating the role of chromosome change in ecological adaptation. It is widely distributed on NE Atlantic coasts, stretching from Northern Norway to Southern Portugal. Dog-whelks on French and English Channel coasts exhibit a numerical chromosome polymorphism, which is highly unusual in showing a correlation with the degree of wave action on the shore, which suggests an adaptive role. This chromosome number variation is accompanied by structural chromoso mal arrangements (inversions and translocations) with the potential to free up functional gene complexes for local selection. Nucella lapillus has featured prominently in studies of tributyltin (TBT) antifouling paints (imposex). There is evidence that a c hromosomal variant may play a protective role in relation to antifouling paint residues. The project will address the question of chromosomal variation in Nucella as a mechanism for adaptation to different thermal environments. Given that the polymorphism was first reported on the French Channel coast six decades ago, and is still present despite the damaging effects of TBT, this provides a unique opportunity to study how chromosome change influences local adaptive capability, and hence the long-term survival of an ecologically important invertebrate species on European shores. The objectives are to use state of the Art molecular and cytological methods, coupled with fine scale shore sampling and laboratory breeding experiments, to test the nature and role o f chromosome change in effecting local adaptation. These investigations will be supported by the expertise and facilities at the Marine Biological Association and Roscoff Marine Laboratory. Nucella lapillus has already been identified a key species by t he Marine Genomics Network of Excellence, and the project will yield findings relevant to the Framework 6 Global Change and Ecosystems Thematic Priority.
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