Researchers map Disney star Nemo’s genomes!

Washington: A team of researchers mapped Nemo’s genome, providing the research community with an invaluable resource to decode the response of fish to environmental changes, including climate change.

In a breakthrough study led by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), researchers used high-tech sequencing tools to create one of the most complete genetic maps for the orange clownfish, a common reef inhabitant and star of the Disney movie, Finding Nemo.

This genome provides an essential blueprint for understanding every aspect of the reef fish’s biology. It contains 26,597 protein-coding genes. And like the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle, it took patience and time to assemble.

The orange clownfish, Amphiprion percula, is not only the most recognized reef fish on Earth but also one of the most highly studied. It comprises approximately 939 million nucleotides that needed to be fit together.

“This species has been central to ground-breaking research in the ecological, environmental and evolutionary aspects of reef fishes,” said co-author of the study, Philip Munday.

For example, the clownfish is a model for studying sex change in fish. It has also helped the researchers understand patterns of larval dispersal in reef fish and it’s the first fish species for which it was demonstrated that predator avoidance behaviour could be impaired by ocean acidification.

The team used state-of-the-art technology to sequence the clownfish’s genome.

“It will further establish the orange clownfish as an ideal lab subject for genetics and genomic studies. This is one of the most complete fish genomes ever produced,” said co-author David Miller.

The findings are published in the Journal of Molecular Ecology Resources.