U of M lab mapping DNA of zebra mussels to slow spread
Kare 11, 9/30/15
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Inside a University of Minnesota laboratory are two refrigerators filled with the arch invasive nemesis of Minnesota lakes.
"We've got samples of zebra mussels from all over Minnesota," says researcher Michael McCartney.
And in the freezer are extracts of DNA - the beginning of the research that one day could help wipe them out.
"Figure out a better way to kill them," McCartney said.
The Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center helps the state solve problems with non-native plants and animals like the Zebra Mussel -- which affects the food supply to young fish and causes plenty of problems for people.
"It's a lot harder to have the kids go in swimming. They're sharp shells," McCartney said.
These researchers are doing something that's never been done before -- mapping the genetic fingerprint of the zebra mussel.
"We want to figure out what the DNA code is. The entire DNA code," McCartney said.
Within two years they expect the genetic map to help them create an actual map of the movements of the species across the state.
A map that could help the DNR better concentrate it's efforts to stop the spread.
The research will be able to show the origin of zebra mussels. So when they pop up in a new lake, they'll be able to tell if they were carried there from, for example, Lake Minnetonka.
Helping stop the spread is the first goal. But they say the DNA map will help other researchers for decades - creating hope that zebra mussels can one day be eliminated.
"With that information, We can figure out what are the key weak spots the species has and hopefully capitalize on that," said Sue Galatowitsch, director of the MN Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center.