Hungarian scientists have announced the creation of a new hybrid fish made from a Russian sturgeon and an American paddlefish. The scientists say that they made the hybrid fish accidentally, as they didn’t think it was possible. In fact, they were simply attempting to breed the Russian sturgeons asexually, using the paddlefishes’ sperm as a catalyst. Which sounds like the beginning of a very gross Jurassic Park movie.
The scientists who created the hybrid sturgeon-paddlefish outlined their findings in a paper recently published in the journal, Genes. According to the paper, which comes via Boing Boing, this was the first hybridization between these two species. The scientists have dubbed the hybrid fish “sturddlefish,” which is, of course, a cute little portmanteau of the fishes’ names.
“We never wanted to play around with hybridization,” Attila Mozsár, a senior research fellow at the Research Institute for Fisheries and Aquaculture in Hungary and co-author of the paper, told The New York Times. He added that the discovery was “absolutely unintentional.”
Mozsár and his fellow researchers were trying to breed Russian sturgeons, a.k.a. Acipenser gueldenstaedtii, as they make up an endangered species. Russian sturgeons are also, as Live Science points out, a prominent source of caviar for consumers around the world. (Incidentally, the Beluga sturgeon, pictured immediately below, is the source of the ever-pricey Beluga caviar.)
Although the scientists ended up with sturddlefish, their original aim was to execute a type of asexual reproduction process referred to as gynogenesis. Gynogenesis requires the presence of sperm without the actual contribution of its DNA. In this case, the scientists were trying to breed more sturgeons by using the paddlefishes’ sperm, but not their DNA.
But to the scientists’ surprise, the paddlefishes’ sperm fused with the sturgeons’ eggs, and passed on their DNA. In fact, hundreds of sturddlefish were born from the attempt at gynogenesis between the two species, with roughly 100 still alive as of now. According to Live Science, some of the sturddlefish are 50-50 mixtures of paddlefish and sturgeon genes, while others are far more resemblant of just sturgeons.
Moving forward, Mozsár et al. say they plan to care for the sturddlefish, but will not produce any more. Their concern is that the new hybrid could outcompete native Russian sturgeon, and lessen that species’ odds of survival. It’s also perhaps a bit precarious to mate two species that have been separated by 184 million years of evolution.
Feature image: Jenő Káldy Attila Mozsár, et al.