Kolkata, April 20: Indian scientists are using a new approach to identify animal species based on genetic labels or barcodes, that can help monitor and clamp down on trafficking of ormental fish from northeast India - a biodiversity hotspot - and aid conservation. Just as shopkeepers scan the similar-yet-different zebra stripes (barcodes) on products to keep track of what they sell and what is in stock, examining certain ubiquitous genetic sequences can differentiate one species from the other with high accuracy. The upshot, says biotechnologist Sankar Kumar Ghosh, is that D barcoding can be applied even when traditiol methods fail.
“Combined with traditiol methods of identification, barcoding can pinpoint threatened fish species being sold under nickmes or popular trade mes by exporters in northeast India, to mislead and avoid detection,” Ghosh, professor, department of biotechnology at Assam University, Silchar, told IANS. To lure hobbyists and enthusiasts, dealers in the northeastern states also adopt other unfair practices like use of synthetic dyes to impart colours to fishes to make them attractive. The northeastern region is home to around 267 species of fish and about 250 are known for their ormental value - colourful, bizarre shapes with patterns that look good in an aquarium display or recreatiol ponds, said Ghosh.
According to a Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute report, the region is the contributor to 80 percent of Indian ormental fish trade. From small varieties like skeheads (murrells) to bigger catfish and other unusual looking species, most fetch a good price in the domestic as well as intertiol markets in neighbouring countries like Nepal and Singapore, said Ghosh. “Although there exists several regulatory ectments in India, aquarium fish are traded largely without endowment to the government and mostly from wild capture. This poses a threat of endangering the species,” he said. This has necessitated cataloguing the ormental fish reserve and its diversity in the region. “So we collected over 100 samples of ormental fish from river beds (the Brahmaputra, the Barak in Assam and rivers from Manipur and Tripura) and traders in northeastern states and used D barcoding to correctly identify 51 ormental fish species which are exported from northeast India.
“Of these, around 30 percent were found to belong to the threatened category. Our study has established that the technique can monitor and regulate trafficking of fish species and help conserve wildlife,” Ghosh said. Of the identified species, as many as 14 are sold under multiple trade mes, the study said.
Carried out by research scholar Bishal Dhar under Ghosh’s supervision, the study was published in the Gene jourl in February this year. Apart from creation of a D barcode library (or catalogue), the aim of the research is to generate awareness on bringing in new regulations that would resist the use of trade mes while exporting a biological resource, said Ghosh. (ians)