In the Mexican Caribbean, inhabit several species of snails. Historically the most abundant was Strombus gigas, commonly called pink snail. For years this type has had great fishing demand for its shells and meat, because of this now the mollusc is threatened and its capture prohibited until 2018.
To help its recovery, Anastazia Teresa Banaszak, a researcher at the Academic Unit of reef systems at Puerto Morelos of the National University of Mexico (UNAM), studies the species since 2009. She found that a microalgae is capable of improving the survival rate of larvae of the pink snail in farming. This represents an alternative for production and conservation.
Banaszak explained that they already knew of a microalgae in the stomach of the snail. "With that background, we wanted to find out when the symbiosis exactly occurs, which is the union of organisms that benefit each other and is vital for their development, and thus determine if it influences the survival and growth of the snail."
The microalgae measures approximately 10 microns (0.01 millimeters) and its known that when it stays in an organism, it performs photosynthesis and genetically mutates the host products, providing a significant amount of food.
Most importantly, the snail has a complex life cycle. The female lays an egg mass where the embryos develop and hatch as larvae within five days. At that time the snail goes into planktonic phase and swims in the sea.
"Our research involved taking samples of microalgae from adult snails and supply it to larvae at different ages. We found that 48 hours after hatching is the best time to apply the algae, as this time is when it can establish the symbiosis. With this, we achieved up to 90 percent survival, as opposed to a development without microalgae, which is less than one percent survival rate," said the doctor in aquatic biology.
Research is currently in the process of obtaining a patent after being awarded within the Program for the Promotion of Patenting and Innovation (PROFOPI- 2014- 2015) in Mexico, which promotes the culture of industrial property in the university.
The aim of the expert is to perfect the technique of cultivation, execute it at a large scale, at low cost and with high efficiency, for a fishing cooperative or a company to benefit from its production and sales and thus preserving the species.
"The most important thing is that we are working to preserve the species and find a more efficient alternative for pink snail farming as a source of income," concluded Dr. Anastazia Banaszak.
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