Ciencia Colombia , Valle del Cauca, Lunes, 09 de noviembre de 2015 a las 10:26

Ornamental fish to be genetically studied due to overexploitation

By performing molecular identification of Otocinclus spp., a species that thrives in the Orinoquía and Amazonian regions of Colombia, a Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNal) researcher hopes to formulate preservation strategies

UN/DICYT Marketing this and other species of ornamental fish could be an extinction threat which has not been determined yet in Colombia. For example Otocinclus species diversity has turned into an obstacle to establish the dimension of fish netting in Colombia.


For instance they are aware that in the Province of Arauca fishermen increasingly need more efforts to catch fish and in some cases, they have perceived local extinction.


In face of these circumstances UNal-Palmira Agrarian Sciences master’s candidate Laura Patricia Serna Hurtado carried out a research project to study these fish and assess their genetic diversity. “Ornamental fish are part of a strong industry in Colombia, not only for the exporters but also for the indigenous communities which depend up to 80% on this activity for their livelihood,” she said.


Taking into account the lack of information on species diversity, Serna proposed a genetic diversity morphological and molecular characterization of otocinclus (Otocinclus spp.) through her master’s thesis project which was codirected by Professors Carlos Alberto Jaramillo and Jaime Eduardo Muñoz.


In regards to the fish chosen for the study they identified three species: Otocinclus vittatus captured on the Meta River, near Villavicencio, Otocinclus macrospilus caught on the Amazon River near the city of Leticia and Otocinclus vestitus, from Caño Lucero, in the Province of Arauca. The fourth specimen had no reports and therefore it could not be recognized. Serna obtained 156 samples or individuals from different species of Otocinclus spp.


The samples bought from fishermen were taken to the UNal Laboratory of Molecular Biology where they sequenced their mitochondrial DNA allowing them to identify and compare species.


“We wanted to become cognizant if there were genetic differences between regions and among species, as this has an economic value for people of the region. We were also interested in the preservation of these species and how this could impact the community,” said Serna.


Therefore the suggestion was to “perform more molecular level genetic diversity research to identify the species and determine new capture zones.”


According to Procolombia, in 2012 Colombia received approximately US $7 million a year in otocinclus exports. Their data also says that between January and November of 2013, along with data of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism and the National Administrative Department of Statistics, Colombia exported US $7.9 million in ornamental fish which was an increase of 7% compared to 2012. The main destinations for these exports were Hong Kong, United States, Taiwan, Japan, Germany and China.