Marine scientists unlock the secrets of the Indian oil sardine industry

A team of researchers from ICAR-Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) has decoded the entire genome of the popular edible fish Indian oil sardine (Sardinella longiceps). This is the first time that the genome of a marine  species from the Indian subcontinent has been sequenced. CMFRI director A Gopalakrishnan described the development as a milestone for marine fisheries in India and said the decoded genome is a valuable resource for understanding the biology, ecology and evolution of the oil sardine. “This critical genomic information could be used to improve management strategies for the conservation and sustainable use of  fish.  

  The decoded genome is 1.077 GB in size and contains a total of 46,316 protein-coding genes. A team of researchers led by Sandhya Sukumaran, Senior Scientist in CMFRI’s Department of Marine Biotechnology, used next-generation sequencing technology to achieve the breakthrough. This study is published in the journal Scientific Data of Nature. Indian oil sardine is an important fishery resource of the Indian subcontinent and accounts for about 10 percent of India’s marine fisheries industry. 

  Small pelagic fish such as Indian oil sardines can be considered  model organisms for studying climate and fisheries impacts on  Indian Ocean resources due to their response to changes in environmental and oceanic parameters. Sardines are an ecologically important part of the marine ecosystem, as they form an intermediate link in the food web and are prey for larger predators. The sardine genome assembly  is a valuable tool for studying adaptation of fish  to climate change. 

 Scientists have also identified  genes involved in  biosynthesis of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in oily sardines, providing insight into the genomic mechanisms behind the high nutritional value of these sardines. Oily sardines are a good source of fatty acids that play a key role in maintaining human health. The researchers believe that their findings could help researchers find critical clues in nutrition research and develop new  supplements or fortified foods  high in PUFAs. In addition, it supports research on synthesizing PUFAs through transgenesis or gene editing techniques in selected organisms  to improve  nutritional value.

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