Wrinkle on, you crazy gene silencing shrimpe

January 28th, 2013 azgardens

Did you know that the term shrimp originated around the 14th century with the Middle English shrimpe?  It means to wrinkle.  Coincidentally, there has been a recent wrinkle in terms of shrimp, prawn, and science.  It is kind of like Frankenstein.


In Israel, a team of researchers headed by Prof. Amir Sagi, the president of the International Society of Invertebrate Reproduction and Development, has produced a tool that can change the sex of crustaceans.  In the article “Prawn farming gets a revolution with same-sex mating”, Viva Sarah Press of Israel 21c summarizes Sagi’s research and his goals.  Sagi says, “This is the first time that the aquaculture industry will be able to use advanced gene silencing to increase yields.  Since the males are faster growers, this discovery could help local farmers increase their incomes.” This seems like good news for aquaculture farmers worldwide.  You may be wondering, what is gene silencing?  Simply put – it is the turning off of a gene by something other than genetic modification.  By utilizing gene silencing, farmers could regulate male and female numbers to suit the demands of an ever-changing market.


Press writes, “Prawns and shrimp are among the most popular types of seafood on menus worldwide.  And with reports of a rise in seafood consumption coupled with depleted resources, something had to be done to help the prawn farmers keep up with demand.” While the article focuses on the seafood implications of Sagi’s research, it will also affect the aquarium industry as well as aquatic plant nurseries.  The ability to regulate the sex of fish is both startling and intriguing.  I suppose we are living in the future.  What do you think?  Are we playing “God” with crustaceans?


Imagine standing in your living room and staring at your aquarium.  You are looking at the shrimp and a thought hits you: I can change their sex!  How does that make you feel?


For more information on Sagi’s research, look here.


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