Age prediction in zebrafish

March 1st, 2021

A close up view of zebra fish against a dark background.

The team used Zebrafish which is a short-lived aquarium fish. Credit: Oregon State University, CC BY-SA 2.0

Estimating age in fish populations is important for fisheries management. Age can be used to estimate abundance, sustainable harvests, and population growth rates. However, the traditional way that fish age is determined is lethal and involves counting growth rings in their ear bones (like counting tree rings). This is labour intensive, and not well-suited to use on threatened species.

A team including FSP early career researcher, Ben Mayne, has developed the first epigenetic clock for a fish. Epigenetic changes occur on the outside of DNA molecules throughout the life of an organism and are often associated with changes to how genes are expressed.

The team focused on the Zebrafish, which is an aquarium fish, because it is short-lived and well-suited to experiments. They showed not only that their method is highly accurate, but they also developed a very cost-effective way to perform the test.

The team are already working on transferring their zebrafish epigenetic age markers to fishes with significant commercial or conservation importance.

Read the publication here.