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  • Writer's pictureGlazedGrouper

Rediscovering the Houting: A Technological Tale of Fish DNA Resurrection

In a riveting discovery, researchers from the University of Amsterdam and the Natural History Museum London have overturned the extinction status of the houting, a fish species thought to have vanished from North Sea estuaries. Utilizing cutting-edge DNA extraction techniques on well-preserved houting specimens dating back over 250 years, the scientists have uncovered a surprising revelation about the fate of this supposedly extinct fish thus the tale of Fish DNA resurrection.


Fish DNA Resurrection

Published in the journal BMC Ecology and Evolution, the research dives into the intricate process of isolating mitochondrial DNA from these ancient specimens, including a dried fish from 1754 that Linnaeus used for the official species description. Through the creation of a phylogenetic tree, the researchers found that all examined houting specimens (Coregonus oxyrinchus) shared a genetic group with the European whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus).

Fish DNA Resurrection Close Up

Contrary to popular belief, the DNA analysis suggests that the houting is not a separate species but rather closely related to the European whitefish. Rob Kroes, the first author from the University of Amsterdam, emphasizes that the houting is not extinct, debunking the notion that led to its official declaration in 2008. The confusion surrounding its extinction status arose from misinterpretations of morphological traits, such as snout length and gill raker count.


Kroes points to the potential need for a name change in the official Latin species name pending further research on the damaged DNA from the 1754 specimen. The current challenge lies in conflicting conservation statuses, with the IUCN declaring the North Sea houting extinct while European nature laws mandate protection for both houting and European whitefish. Kroes stresses the urgency to address this confusion, stating, "We are actually protecting an extinct species that is just swimming around at the moment."

Fish DNA Resurrection Extracted Fish

This technological triumph in DNA analysis not only challenges the presumed extinction of the houting but also raises profound questions about the broader classification and protection of related species in the aquatic ecosystem. This journey into the depths of genetic revelation is reshaping our understanding of the intricate tapestry of marine life.


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