INTERNATIONAL MATCHMAKING ACCELERATES GENETIC ADVANCES
Issued- Wednesday, 14 November, 2012
For use- Immediate
• Landcatch’s hi-tech database links research in Scotland and Chile
• Enhanced technology will speed up progress in aquaculture
• Experts able to get faster and more accurate results
Leading aquaculture company Landcatch is stepping up its search for the perfect fish by linking pedigree breeding programmes in Scotland and Chile.
Information on hundreds of thousands of salmon in both countries is now being fed into a state-of-the-art database which can make quicker and more exact decisions on pairing individual fish.
The process is accelerating genetic advances by producing more robust offspring that grow faster and are less susceptible to disease.
Dr Alan Tinch, director of genetics at Landcatch, which has its headquarters in Ormsary in Argyll, said: “We now have the ability to use information in all three programmes to make more accurate decisions on the selection of fish. That’s something unique.”
Dr Tinch said the database effectively acts as a large and complex ‘dating agency’. He said: “We are collecting information about the salmon we have on our farms around the world and using it to match the best female with the best male.
“In this way the next generation of fish is better in a number of respects than before – faster growing, more disease resistant, with improved fat content and better eating quality.
“We cannot move the individual fish, but we can work out which do well in Scotland and Chile and then breed from the best in each country to meet the needs of each customer.”
There are presently over 800,000 salmon recorded in the database with more than 100,000 records added every year. Each has its own identification number which allows experts to trace its family history from parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.
Every fish can have over 100 traits recorded, such as its fat content or resistance to certain disease, meaning scientists can look at millions of pieces of information in matching individuals.
“The family histories, combined with all the genetic information we have on the database, allows us to make predictions about which of the fish are going to give us a good performance”, said Dr Tinch.
“The system gives us an even greater level of accuracy in decisions we make as the information at our disposal is more robust, more accurate and there is more of it collected over different environments.
“It allows us to quickly and easily access all the information we have on individual animals and their families and when we crunch the numbers we know which is the best male for the industry in Scotland, or the best female for Chile. We can also customise matches for individual companies.
“It’s no longer about crossing together the big, good looking fish. We look at all the information using advanced genetic models and decide which are the best males and the best females.”
Landcatch, the UK’s premier aquaculture breeding company, selling young stock and eggs worldwide, is part of the global Hendrix Genetics multi-species food production organisation whose mission is to help the world meet its food needs through innovative and sustainable genetic techniques.
Using new genomic tools offers the potential for the company to accelerate the rate of improvement within their breeding programmes and allows selection for important characteristics, such as resistance to disease.
The database to analyse genetic and genomic information was originally established by Landcatch in 2006 in a collaborative project with EGENES (Edinburgh Genetic Evaluation Services), part of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).
Over the past 5 years the database has been developed by specialists in Landcatch, Dr Derrick Guy and Andrew Robertson, in collaboration with database experts at EGENES. As well as providing conventional genetic analysis the new database is designed to implement new genomic methods such as marker–assisted selection for Infectious Pancreatic Necrosis virus (IPN) resistance.
Landcatch identified markers for IPN resistance in collaboration with Roslin Institute and Stirling Institute of Aquaculture. Further work by this group, including University of Glasgow, is extending this work to sea lice resistance using a cutting-edge genomic selection tool – the SNP Chip – a glass slide used to analyse variations in DNA sequences, or Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs), which act as biological markers and help scientists locate a range of genes associated with disease.
The database will mean improved quality products and an acceleration of genetic techniques in farmed fish which the industry and commentators, including the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, believe is necessary to address world food shortages caused by climate change.
For further information contact
01463 724593; 07730 099617