In order to keep a healthy population of the endangered Formosan landlocked salmon in the nation, a cooperation project by National Taiwan Ocean University and a biotechnology company has completed about 80 percent of the genome sequencing of the species.
The Formosan landlocked salmon is a rare freshwater fish that inhabits the upper part of Chichiawan Stream (七家灣溪) and it nearly became extinct in 1992 when the population fell to about 200, the university said.
National Taiwan Ocean University president Chang Ching-fong (張清風) said the Formosan landlocked salmon is a glacial relic species and is the only salmon species living in a subtropical region, so it has always been considered as an important species in terms of conservation biology, natural history, ecological conservation and environmental education, as well as an indicator species that reflects a specific environmental condition.
At an announcement of the project’s initial results yesterday, Chang said the population of the species has been restored to more than 5,000, but that it had dropped to below 500 at one point, which may have caused the problem of inbreeding.
“Because there are only thousands of them [Formosan landlocked salmon], it is likely that they were produced by a limited number of parent fish, so it is important to try to avoid inbreeding,” he said.
Chang said many countries are now using genome sequencing as a method to better understand certain species for conservation purposes, such as a team of French and Italian researchers that sequenced the DNA of a truffle species, and researchers in China conducting genome sequencing research on pandas.
The university and the company have spent two years on the genome sequencing project to unlock the species’ life code and while 80 percent of it is complete, they plan to reach 85 percent by the end of the year.
Chang said by establishing a database of the species’ genome, they not only can help restore a healthy population of the rare endemic species by avoiding inbreeding, but also better understand its evolution and environmental adaptability.