Scientists have accidentally created a hybrid of the American paddlefish and Russian sturgeon. Both species are endangered, the later being world-famous for caviar, which is made form its unfertilised eggs. Both the American paddlefish and the Russian sturgeon are known as ‘fossil fish’ due to their ancient lineage and slow evolution which has seen them virtually unchanged for millions of years.
That evolution took a most unexpected twist when scientists, researching whether the species could be bred in captivity used a process known as gynogenesis (a method of asexual reproduction that requires the presence of sperm without the contribution of their DNA for completion), the researchers accidentally used paddlefish sperm to fertilize the sturgeon eggs.
Unbelievably the hybridisation worked and when the eggs hatched, researchers had two slightly different versions of the newly named Sturddlefish. The ones that had had twice as much maternal DNA looked more like sturgeon whereas the ones with equal amounts of maternal and paternal DNA, looked like a mix of the two species.
The researchers’ findings were published this month in in scientific journal Genes this month, compiled by, among others, scientist Attila Mozsár from the Research Institute for Fisheries and Aquaculture in Hungary.
"We never wanted to play around with hybridization," Mozsár told The New York Times. "It was absolutely unintentional."
While the Sturddlefish is an impressive scientific curiosity, most artificially produced hybrids are sterile ad can’t reproduce, so it is unlikely that we will see either a new form of caviar, or the new species thriving in lakes and rivers in the wild.