Sayville Students and teacher in National Geographics film

  • National Geograhics presents Dino Crabs

    The show is making its debut next week and features two Sayville science students and RISE teacher Maria Brown.


    Just days before Sandy devastated Long Island's coastline, RISE teacher Maria Brown and Sayville High School students Curran Boyce and Susan Mangaluz were filmed by National Geographic for their research projects on the Atlantic horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus).

    The “shoot” took place at the Center for Estuarine, Environmental and Coastal Oceans Monitoring Center, a Dowling College satellite location at the West Sayville Boat Basin in West Sayville, New York. The genetic research for both projects was conducted at the high school in the RISE Programs genetic research laboratory.

    • The research by Curran Boyce is a collaborative effort between Cornell Cooperative Extension's scientific team lead by Dr. Matthew Sclafani, Dowling College's scientific team lead by Dr. John Tanacredi, and Sayville High School. The goal of this study was to determine whether mitochondrial DNA analyses of horseshoe crab eggs from Pike’s Beach using the cytochrome oxidase I gene could potentially correlate to the radio telemetry results observed by Cornell Cooperative Extension to establish site fidelity (whether horseshoe crabs return to the same beach each mating season) based on estimates of gene flow. Egg collection was conducted under Dowling College's NYSDEC License to Collect and Possess. DNA were extracted from horseshoe crab eggs and purified for sequencing at Sayville High School to generate maximum likelihood and condensed bootstrap analyses combined with evolutionary matrices to support site fidelity at Pike’s Beach located on the Peconic Estuary in Westhampton, New York. High genetic variability but limited gene flow was discovered for the Pike’s Beach horseshoe crab population and showed a high correlation to the data set obtained by Cornell.


    • Susan Mangaluz has been working with the Dowling College Team for the past three years where eggs from 13 different locations are being analyzed to establish a mitochondrial DNA fingerprint for the genetic variation that occurs within and between populations from the different locations extending from Brooklyn to Montauk Point on both the north and south shores of Long Island. Phylogenetic analysis was generated using Mega5. Clustal W, Maximum Likelihood Phylogenetic trees and Bootstrap analyses. Results indicate the presence of new and rare haplotypes (gene variability) for the Long Island region which suggests a minimal rate of gene flow between Long Island and the Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay and northern and southern Florida horseshoe crab populations where haplotype analyses have been conducted using the same primers (same analytical portion of the gene) and methods. The results also suggest familial relationships as mtDNA was used and further support the findings of site fidelity reported by Curran Boyce. Overall findings of both projects suggest that genetic variation within the Atlantic horseshoe crab populations may be related to latitudinal changes and/or limited migratory movement from estuaries annually. This is new information, never reported for Long Island in the peer-reviewed literature, as it had always been thought by scientists that populations retreated to offshore environments during the winter months and dispersed randomly to beaches for the mating season from May -September of each year.


    Genetic sequencing has been supported by a high school grant received from the American Society for Molecular Biology and Biochemistry.

    The Atlantic horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) is a living fossil to ancient trilobites and are distributed across the Atlantic coast of North America, from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico, and can be found within many estuaries along the eastern coast of North America as well as in the contiguous continental shelf areas. They have great ecological and economical importance throughout the Atlantic coast and provide food for endangered migratory birds and sea turtles, bait for fisherman, and their blue, copper based blood provide Limulus ameobocyte lysate (LAL) used in the medical industry worldwide. As their population numbers dwindle, it is important to understand the genetic diversity within and between populations so that nesting sites and appropriate environmental regulations regarding the number of live crabs that may be caught each year are established and protected to ensure the longevity of this ancient organism for future generations.

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