Objectives – University of Copenhagen


Mollusc shells represent fantastic environmental archives providing invaluable information about life history traits of coastal marine organisms. By looking at their internal structure and their geochemical and biochemical composition (oxygen and carbon stable isotopes, amino acids), we can date shells at high resolution, reconstruct robust stratigraphy, and recover a range of environmental information about paleo-temperatures and paleo-food availability. Mollusc shells have already provided key information for tracking paleo-water temperatures, phytoplankton dynamics, climatic oscillations, river flows, salinity, and pollution, for example.

Introducing a new proxy

ArcheoSHELL aims at adding DNA to the list of paleo-environmental proxies that can be gathered from mollusc shells. Making use of mollusc shells as genetic paleo-environmental archives will enable us to retrieve information about past population dynamics and paleo-environments. Because detailed environmental information can be made available from the same set of shells using geochemical proxies, we will be able to develop for the first time a truly and fully integrative approach comparing in almost real time the responses of past populations and communities to major environmental disturbances for a period of time spanning several centuries.

Ancient pathogens

Another objective of ArcheoSHELL is to provide new knowledge about the interactions between molluscs and pathogens. The genome analysis of pathogens extracted from ancient specimens will reveal key insights about the mechanisms of pathogen/host genomic adaptation, which is crucial for understanding re-emerging infections. We will track ancient Vibrio tapetis pathogens within the shell of ancient diseased Manila clams, and reconstruct the long-term co-evolutionary arms race between the host and the pathogen.


        the quality of DNA preservation in mollusc shells by screening ancient marine bivalve specimens, originating from different geographic sources and time periods.


        the impact of a major climate crisis on mollusc populations and the coastal marine environment as a whole by tracking changes in mollusc genetic diversity and metagenomic...


        the evolutionary origin of pathogenic Vibrio tapetis strains of major economic importance by characterizing the genetic reservoir of Vibrio strains pre- and post- the emergence of...