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Collaboration to support fish breeding in Brazil

Vito Mastrochirico Filho is visiting us from Brazil to develop tools for improvement of native fish species in Brazil for the first time.

Piaractus mesopotamicus, popularly known as "Pacu"
Piaractus mesopotamicus, popularly known as "Pacu"

Vito Mastrochirico Filho - a PhD student from The Aquaculture Centre of Sao Paulo State University (CAUNESP/UNESP) in Brazil ‒ is visiting Professor Ross Houston's group at The Roslin Institute to develop tools to support breeding programs for improvement of native fish species in Brazil.

Piaractus mesopotamicus, popularly known as "Pacu" ('fast eater fish' in the native language) is a Brazilian fresh water fish species related to piranhas. This fish is considered to be one of the most important freshwater species cultivated in South America, mainly because of its huge size, reaching up to 40 inches long and weighing up to 40 pounds. Interestingly, Pacu also have teeth very similar to the incisors and molars of humans, which allow them to break hard fruits and seeds which in turn disperses a rich diversity of seeds through the river ecosystem.

Ross Houston's group at The Roslin Institute with Vito sitting on the left
Ross Houston's group at The Roslin Institute with Vito sitting on the left

Regrettably, because Pacu's meat and ribs were so popular, this led to over-fishing of this species. Locals are now looking to aquaculture - the farming of aquatic animals - to help restore the fish stocks and food security.

Unfortunately, due to the lack of biological knowledge of Pacu and the intensification of its culture, increasing mortality rates of fish stocks were seen. This was due to several bacterial diseases such as aeromoniosis.

In an effort to combat these diseases, Vito is visiting The Roslin Institute. With the knowledge and expertise developed by Professor Houston and his research group in the application of modern genomic tools to aquaculture species, genomic subsidies are being generated to minimize mortality related to bacterial infections in Pacu.

For example, Vito has been working with Dr. Carolina Penaloza and Dr. Diego Robledo to generate a genomic profile of the host response to Aeromonas hydrophila infection in Pacu, and provide genetic markers using a technique called 'RAD Sequencing' that will help with the development of breeding programs directed to tackle this disease.

This is the first research of this type to be performed on a Brazilian native fish species and could become the cornerstone for the development of genomic resources for other species, potentially leading to the integration of genomic tools to improve selective breeding in Brazilian aquaculture.

Working with Professor Houston at The Roslin Institute has been a fantastic experience. His and his teams' knowledge of modern genomic tools and their application to aquaculture species will have great impact on local Brazilian aquaculturists and communities.

Vito Mastrochirico Filho

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