CEB Committe on Evolutionary Biology

Mariah Wild Scott

Mussels!

Mariah Wild Scott. I am a PhD student entering my second year.  I am interested in the evolution of life history strategies, specifically related to reproductive effort and maternal input.  Bivalves, including clams and mussels, represent a unique study system for investigating these topics.  Bivalve species have evolved a spectrum of maternal input per offspring and different maternal adaptations to evaluate.  Different life history adaptations that will be compared include free-living, lecithotrophic (yolk-fed), brooded, and parasitic larvae.  Bivalve shells, which provide a record of the animal’s size and shape over the course of its life, also provide the means for unique insight into the impact these costs have on the females. 

These comparisons will reveal the impact of maternal costs, due to species level life history adaptations, on maternally influenced growth rates.  For imperiled species, this information will help us understand their reproductive vulnerability, based on which mothers have their growth more taxed by reproduction.  This information will better inform conservation efforts.  For the commercially important species examined, this study presents a unique way of understanding their life cycles by comparing them to other bivalves. 

The first iteration of my research will focus on comparing the average rate of growth for females and males of a given species in the context of the species life history adaptations.  This research will begin with the pilot study focusing on three species with contrasting brooding times and host attraction strategies.  This pilot project has been graciously supported by the Hind’s Fund and the Illinois Natural History Survey.