Over the past few weeks I’ve spent some quality time with my research organism, Fucus vesiculosus, to get the conditions ‘just right’ for its reproduction and mating. Doing research with seaweeds has lots of advantages – they don’t move, most are very abundant and predictable (in terms of where they’ll be), you don’t have to report to an animal-care board when keeping them in captivity, and (at least for fucoids) they’re pretty easy to convince to do ‘the deed’.
It’s really easy to tell the boys from the girls – the sperm are bright yellow-orange and the eggs are a lovely shade of olive green. I’ve been spawning Fucus and making embryos in order to make sure I have the methodology correct, quantify the amount of variation in eggs and sperm I may get in a single spawning event, and estimate just how long I can keep the offspring alive.
So why would I want to force these seaweeds to spawn? Being able to mate Fucus let’s me ask a bunch of interesting research questions like does it matter who your daddy (or mommy) is in terms of survival and growth? or is it better to live with relatives or perfect strangers?