Researchers 'accidentally' create sturddlefish — a hybrid of the sturgeon and paddlefish

They tried to breed these fish in the lab as they both are endangered species and fortunately, their experiment yielded a result.

Scientists from the Research Institute for Fisheries and Aquaculture, Hungary, created a strange hybrid fish called a 'sturddlefish' while conducting research in their lab.

The researchers were going to use the sperm of the paddlefish to fertilize the eggs of the sturgeon through asexual reproduction in a process named gynogenesis. This requires sperm but not DNA of the animal to work.

Using gynogenesis (a method of asexual reproduction that requires the presence of sperm without the contribution of their DNA for completion), the researchers accidentally used paddlefish sperm to fertilize the sturgeon eggs. Remarkably, the hybridization worked.

Here are two examples of the sturddlefish hybrid of the Russian sturgeon and American paddlefish. Image credit: Attila Mozsar/Genes

The sturddlefish hybrid of the Russian sturgeon and American paddlefish. Image credit: Attila Mozsar/Genes

According to a report by CNET, both these fish are referred to as "fossil fish" because of their ancient lineage and a slow evolution. The closest ancestors of the two fish date back to 184 million years. The sturgeon is from Russia while the paddlefish is from America. The researchers assumed that the two species would not be able to reproduce because they have never come into contact with each other. Despite this, the paddlefish managed to fertilise eggs of the sturgeon.

The researchers had tried to breed the sturgeon and paddlefish in the lab since they are both endangered species and wanted to see if they could be bred in captivity. This could help them save their endangered species. However, their experiment yielded a completely different result.

The researchers separated hybridised fish into two groups. The sturddlefish with more maternal DNA looked more like sturgeon, while those fish that had the equal amounts of the genes from the mother and father looked like an equal mix of the two.

“I did a double-take when I saw it. I just didn’t believe it. I thought, hybridization between sturgeon and paddlefish? There’s no way,” reported The New York Times quoting Solomon David, an aquatic ecologist at Nicholls State University in Louisiana.

Both the species are among the largest, longest-living, and slowest-growing freshwater fish on Earth. They have become endangered because of overfishing and pollution over the last century.

“We never wanted to play around with hybridisation. It was absolutely unintentional,” The New York Times quoted Attila Mozsár, a co-author of the study, as saying.

The findings of the study were published in the scientific journal Genes.

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