Biology textbooks will never quite be the same again. Scientists have altered the reproductive organs of salmon so that they produce trout offspring.
A “germ” tissue from young trout was put into young salmon so that when the salmon became sexually mature they produced the sperm and eggs of trout. In a study published today in the journal Nature, the researchers report that they have successfully used the technique to breed healthy rainbow trout from salmon parents.
The scientists, led by Yutaka Takeuchi of the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, said that the development could help many of the world’s endangered species of fish. Dr Takeuchi said tissue transplants from one endangered species to a related but more common species that is easier to rear in captivity could help to boost the wild populations of threatened or commercially valuable fish.
“The seed production for a species with a large body size and longer generation time could be carried out in surrogate parents with a smaller body size and shorter generation time,” Dr Takeuchi said.
The technique relies on transplants of “primordial germ cells”, which are the specialised tissues of embryonic fish that eventually develop into the gonads, the sex organs of adults that produce the sperm and eggs.