Half-Way Pregnant in Japan

January 2, 2008 By: Marshall Cutchin

If you take the argument over wild versus hatchery-raised fish stocks and expand the playing field dramatically, you’ll end up with the possibility that one day we’ll be managing fish populations through gene manipulation — a convenient out for those who could care less about habitat. It turns out that the Japanese, who seem less likely to lose their taste for endangered species than my kids are likely to give up candy, have discovered that primordial germ cells are easily transferable across species. The upshot may be that any one species of fish may parent another. So, in theory, brown trout could produce greenback cutthroat, steelhead or, for that matter, sturgeon (Westslope Caviar, anyone?).
Olivia Judson writes optimistically about the latest news from this odd, but awe-inspiring branch of science in The New York Times. “What I like about experiments like this is that they show we are all made of the same stuff. Cells from one species can be moved into another, and become incorporated, despite several million years of independent evolution. It’s a profound testament to our common ancestry.” (Thanks to John Merwin for this link.)