Beloved of upper-class diners everywhere, and a multi-million pound industry in the far East and US, oysters are more than just a pretty shell. Now an international team of researchers from China, the US and Europe have mapped and sequenced the Pacific oyster genome, publishing their report in the journal Nature. The new data reveals how oysters have adapted to life in the sea, and how it creates its complex shell. Life for Pacific oysters is tough, as they live between the high and low tide levels, exposed to the hot sun when they're not submerged in salty water. And there's also the risk of attack from birds and other animals. The genome map reveals more than 80 genes that have evolved over time to help to protect the oyster from stress in this inhospitable environment.

The researchers hope that their work will help scientists breed faster-growing oysters that have a better chance of surviving.

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