6 11 2012

My 12 female red abalone in their new tank (B. Blaud)

I am so EXCITED!!!  My 16 red abalones (4 males and 12 females) arrived today.  The abalone stork (also called FedEx) just dropped them off.  They are now settling in nicely down in the basement, twisting and stretching as they get used to their new home…


But I know you are probably thinking, “Why do you need abalones?  Wasn’t the point of the fake eggs and sperm to bypass the need for actual abalones?”  Well, yes, but that’s no reason to rain on my parade.  Geesh.  Can’t a girl be excited about her new abalone for five minutes?  In all seriousness, there is a very good and valid reason to me getting my own abalone.


My experiments in tide pools are fairly simple: I release fake sperm, allow them to build up for 5 minutes, then release the fake eggs (allowing fake sperm to release for another 5 minutes), and collect water samples to count each of the sizes of particles later in a lab (or kitchen-lab).   This worked well, but the question that was brought to my attention was how real is the experiment?  Are the fake egg and sperm realistic representations of live egg and sperm?  That’s where my shiny new red abalones come in.


The four male red abalone, with decorative marks to indicate their masculinity (B. Blaud)

To provide some plausibility to my experiment, I will get red abalone to spawn and will collect their eggs and sperm.  Red abalone not only are easier to spawn (less shy, I guess), but are not endangered and are raised in farms, so no permit is required to work with them.  In my field experiments, the eggs will be put in plastic containers surrounded with a small mesh (~80um) that keeps the eggs enclosed, but still allows water and sperm to pass through.  I will anchor each of the containers at various distances from where I will be releasing the sperm.  The live sperm will be released in a similar manner as my fake sperm: through an IV bag that controls the rate of release to simulate an actual male spawning.  No actual abalone will be released into the environment.  I will also collect water samples to measure the concentration of sperm at different distances and times to compare with my simulated spawning events using fake gametes.


When the experimental run is complete, we will collect containers containing the eggs and count how many of the eggs were fertilized back at a lab (or kitchen-lab) under a dissecting scope.  No larvae will be released into the environment.  The results I get from this experiment will be used to validate future releases with fake gametes.  I’m anxious to learn more and start spawning my new abalones, and can’t wait for them to adjust!


But for right now, I’m content to just be a proud mama of 16 new abalones!