Black Abalone

Using genomic data and novel analytical tools to identity an appropriate strategy for the conservation and management of black abalone.

Campus: UCSC

PI(s): Shapiro

Background: Black abalone were once the most abundant large shellfish clinging to the rocks of intertidal zones between Baja and Oregon. Like most other species of abalone native to coastal California, black abalone have been decimated by human consumption in recent years, and are now listed as Endangered. In addition to small and fractured populations, black abalone are now threatened by a withering disease. Unlike other abalone, black abalone have large larvae and are believed to have highly limited dispersal. This makes it possible for a conservation genomics approach to be potentially useful in identifying strategies for their conservation and restoration under the ESA. We propose therefore to use a conservation genomics approach to answer the following questions:

  • Is there restricted genetic variation in areas affected by withering disease vs those areas not affected by disease?
  • Is there evidence of selection within the species or population, perhaps related to age and/or geographic structure, and is the spatial genetic structure of genetic diversity related to disease presence?
  • What is the level of connectivity among populations?


  • We are the holders of the only collection permitĀ for black abalone
  • We have surveyed the entire population of Black abs and have actual population estimates for the entire US population in fine geographic detail
  • We can collect tissue from sick and well animals
  • We have teams in the field throughout the range and all the time
  • Our collaborators include NMFS, NPS, BOEM State of California (resources for collection come from these collaborations), and a variety of stakeholders that we can engage to participate directly in the project, for example by identifying sick and well individuals
  • We have a student that can be supported by other means who is willing to take on this project, which will streamline the work
  • Genomic data from other abalone are available for comparative analysis (e.g. reds, from Bob Wayne)

Approach: We will sequence and assemble a genome and perform low-coverage genome sequencing on a geographically broad population representing the entire range of black abs. We propose to sample sick and well individuals from across the range and perform RNAseq analysis on a subset (samples that are alive when discovered).