Using DNA sequences to estimate lifespan

A young women holding a large fish.

Alyssa will be developing a model to estimate lifespan in fish.

Dr Alyssa Budd’s project within the Environomics FSP will develop a model to estimate lifespan in fish. The project builds on previous work within the FSP showing, quite remarkably, that the density of ‘CG’ sequences in vertebrate genomes can be used to predict animal lifespans (Mayne et al., 2019). Using genomic ‘CG’ density and known fish lifespans, Alyssa will build a model to estimate lifespan in species for which it is currently unknown.

Why lifespan? Lifespan, or maximum age, is a critical value for sustainable fisheries management – most often used to estimate natural mortality. Lifespan values are also inherently difficult to obtain, as it is unlikely that the oldest individual found, aged and recorded is truly the oldest individual that ever lived. It is also unlikely that the single oldest individual is an accurate representation for the entire species. This means a species needs to be sampled heavily before we can get an idea of their average maximum lifespan, but the genomic lifespan model will require sampling and sequencing of just a single individual.

Alyssa is interested in applying molecular and bioinformatic tools to overcome challenges related to sustainable use of the environment. Alyssa’s previous post-doc involved the development and application of an eDNA assay to detect scalloped hammerhead sharks, and her PhD research investigated the epigenetic effects of temperature on sex change in Australian barramundi.