Assessment of Little Ness (Isle of Man) Horse Mussel Reef: Survey Data, Genetic Analyses, Stress Response

Clara Lucy Mackenzie, Rebecca Catherine Grieve, Joanne Porter

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


The subtidal marine bivalve Modiolus modiolus (horse mussel) is a reef-forming species that creates habitats of high marine biodiversity and provides numerous ecosystem services for societal benefit. The Isle of Man Government (IOM) Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA) is entering the consultation phase for a Marine Nature Reserve designation of an Isle of Man M. modiolus reef site known as the Little Ness site, situated south of Douglas along the south-eastern coast of the IOM. Researchers from the Centre for Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology (CMBB) at Heriot-Watt University are providing evidence to aid the IOM government’s consultation process by highlighting the conservation importance and research value of the site at both the local scale and in a wider context as a part of a network of M. modiolus populations found across the Irish Sea region and beyond. In this report information is provided regarding the results of genetic connectivity analyses (including examination of genetic differentiation and genetic diversity) of the Little Ness site within the IOM M. modiolus network (Little Ness, Point of Ayre and Ramsey Bay sites) and across the larger UK network (Scottish sites). Results indicate that IOM sites are moderately genetically differentiated from one another and within the wider UK network, and are generally more genetically diverse than Scottish populations. Preliminary stress experiments suggest that the Little Ness population may have increased stress response under climate change conditions (warming) as compared to current conditions, as shown by increased DNA damage and decreased antioxidant production under warming conditions. However, at extreme temperatures (e.g. 18°C, where less DNA damage was observed), the population may be able to reduce damage via some physiological mechanisms but further investigation is needed to substantiate the findings. Supplementary survey data is provided as gathered during sample collection for the genetic analyses and stress experiments. Information provided here contributes to a strong scientific basis on which management decisions for the Little Ness M. modiolus reef under the context of climate change may be founded.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherHeriot-Watt University
Commissioning bodyIsle of Man Government
Number of pages35
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2017


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