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Fisheries Research Agency’s Unprecedented Decoding of Bluefin Tuna Genome

July 22, 2013

The Fisheries Research Agency successfully decoded the genome of Pacific bluefin tuna and announced July 19 that unlike other species, the visual pigment genes of the tuna had evolved in the way that it could decipher green in a red-colored environment. The decoding of the entire genome of bluefin tuna was unprecedented.

The title of a published paper is Evolutionary Changes Of Multiple Visual Pigment Genes in the Complete Genome of Pacific Bluefin Tuna, which can be viewed on the website of the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

Tunas are pelagic migratory fish at the top of a marine ecosystem. Regardless of their importance in the ecosystem and high marketability, their biology was left unmapped.

Collaborating with University of Tokyo, Kyoshu University, and the National Institute of Genetics since 2009, the Fisheries Research Agency had attempted at whole genome sequencing and determined sequences over 50 times larger than the initially estimated genome size (approx. 800 million base pairs). More than 90 percent of the projected genome size, about 740 million based pairs were sequenced.

As a result, visual pigment genes unique to bluefin tuna were discovered. It can be inferred that bluefin tuna swimming about at a high speed on a marine surface layer is able to recognize a subtle blue-green color variation in a red, bare underwater world.

It is believed that the result will further lead to a fundamental understanding of behavioral characteristics of ichthyophagous fish, bluefin tuna, and that it will contribute to improved tuna production technology. Moreover, having sequenced the complete genome of bluefin tuna “will help grasp the fish’s biological attributes other than vision and benefit the breeding of the fish species,” according to the Fisheries Research Agency.

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