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UNB researchers tie European settlement in Canada to Maritime sea life

Author: Communications

Posted on Sep 19, 2014

Category: UNB Saint John , UNB Fredericton

Researchers at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) are shedding new light on the history and evolution of marine organisms in the North Atlantic.

As part of his PhD research at UNB Fredericton’s biology department, Tony Einfeldt is tracing the origins of the small but abundant creatures that sustain intertidal ecosystems in the Maritimes by investigating their genetic code.

Surprisingly, Einfeldt has found that mud worms and mud shrimp – the two most common sources of food for birds and fish in the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine – originated from populations in Europe.

“These species are not very good dispersers, meaning they can’t move very far on their own. However, they would likely have been present in the rocks and mud that were historically used as ballast to control ship buoyancy, up until the mid-1800s,” says Einfeldt.

By analyzing how related different populations are in Europe and North America, Einfeldt has found several independent introductions of these mudflat species along the East Coast.

As part of his ongoing research, Einfeldt is employing new genetic methods to understand why these species have been so successful in North America, and what changes they may have made to the ecosystem.

Einfeldt’s work is part of larger research program addressing evolutionary patterns in marine organisms, overseen by UNB biologist Dr. Jason Addison.

Media contact: Kelsey Seymour

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