Hungarian Researchers Accidentally Create ‘Sturddlefish’

Hungarian researchers trying to breed Russian sturgeons and American paddlefish in captivity to help their depleted numbers inadvertently created what the Internet is calling a “sturddlefish,” a hybrid version of the two freshwater denizens.

The species, revealed in the July 6 issue of the journal Genes, was generated accidentally through a process called gynogenesis, which is a form of asexual production that requires sperm but not the DNA from it.

The hybrid was created at the Research Institute for Fisheries and Aquaculture in Hungary and has shocked aquatic scientists. Although both species are among the longest-living, largest freshwater fish – the sturgeon can grow to 7 feet long and the paddlefish 8.5 feet, the differences in the two are fairly stark.

The Russian sturgeon, the roe of which is valued for caviar, is a carnivore which eats mollusks and crustaceans off the bottoms of lakes, rivers, and coastal plains. The American paddlefish, known for its long snout and thousands of sensory receptors, filters zooplankton for food, and is found in 22 states.

“I did a double-take when I saw it,” aquatic ecologist at Louisiana’s Nicholls State University Solomon David told The New York Times. “I just didn’t believe it. I thought, hybridization between sturgeon and paddlefish? There’s no way.”

Some of the lab creatures are 50-50 mixtures of their sturgeon/paddlefish parents, while some look more sturgeon-like with blunter noses. However, all are carnivores, according to Live Science.

Survival of the hybrid family groups ranged from 62% to 74% 30 days after hatching and about 100 of the sturddlefish remain, although they will be the last of their kind since the researchers who created them suspect that like mules and ligers – a cross between a lion and a tiger, the fish are sterile.

Regardless, scientists are still marveling that two species separated by 184 million years of evolution could actually mate.

“I think it’s pretty cool that these living fossils can still surprise us,” David said.

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