An international consortium led by the Interdisciplinary Centre for Marine and Environmental Research (CIIMAR), from the University of Porto (UP), Portugal, has succeeded in producing the first high-fidelity genome of the mackerel. The discovery has just been revealed in an article published in the scientific journal Gigabyte and was possible thanks to the use of new generation technologies for genome sequencing.

It was precisely from a study on the biology of the sardine done in 2018, which resulted in the production of the first reference genome for the species, that the CIIMAR team was able to produce what is the first high-fidelity mackerel genome. A resource that is an essential tool to study the population dynamics of the species and much more.

The mackerel is one of the most common fish off the Portuguese coast, with a geographical distribution covering the entire Northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea. With an unmistakable blue-green pattern, this fish has gained increasing attention among Portuguese consumers. Its high levels of essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, very important components in a balanced diet, make it an increasingly valid alternative to sardines.

Very relevant tool to improve knowledge about mackerel

For Filipe Castro, a researcher at CIIMAR-UP and the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto (FCUP), and one of the senior scientists involved in this work, the results now revealed represent a “very relevant tool to improve our knowledge about the biology of mackerel,” or it would not be the “first high quality genome in species of this taxonomic genus!”

The researcher also points out that this technological resource, in addition to “a first global look at the mackerel genome,” will allow “assessing the genetic diversity of wild mackerel stocks. This will not only allow us to assess the local impact of fishing practices, but also to understand how to enhance the natural mechanisms for the recovery of populations, among much more things.

At a time when the impact of humans on marine resource stocks is exacerbated by global change, the study now published also shows how genetics can open a new perspective on species adaptations to new climatic conditions.

“It is a clear example of the power that genomic approaches have in monitoring and conservation of biological resources,” says André Machado, researcher at CIIMAR-UP and lead author of the work that “allowed, for example, to study the genes critically involved in the response to ongoing global changes, the famous Anthropocene.

The scientist institution provides innovative solutions and products

The Portuguese CIIMAR is a leading research and advanced training institution of the University of Porto, working at the frontier of Ocean Knowledge and Innovation.

The Center fosters an integrated approach to Ocean and coastal areas promoting the understanding and knowledge of Biological, Physical and Chemical dynamics of these environments and the impact of natural and human activities, aiming to unravel the links between these processes, grasp Ocean and ecosystems functioning and responses to Global Changes.

Also, the scientist institution uses knowledge-based approaches to promote the natural capital and the sustained management of marine resources through monitoring of ecosystems health, optimization of aquaculture, and biotechnological exploitation of the resources for environmental and human health applications.

It’s important to say, that CIIMAR provides innovative solutions and products responding to current economic and societal challenges, including new drugs and marine products for industrial and medicinal needs, water quality, sustainable fisheries, preparedness for and mitigation of oil spills and other emergent contaminants, environmental monitoring and risk assessment, preservation of ecosystems services, ocean and coastal management and Ocean Literacy, among others.

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