|Ocean pout at the Woods Hole Science Aquarium|
The ocean pout (Zoarces americanus) is an eelpout in the family Zoarcidae. It is found in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of New England and eastern Canada. The fish has antifreeze proteins in its blood, giving it the ability to survive in near-freezing waters.
Use in genetic modification
Scientists have done studies wherein genes are taken from the ocean pout and implanted into salmon in an attempt to make the latter grow faster. The promoter for the antifreeze protein gene is used in conjunction with the growth hormone taken from a Chinook salmon, which leads to a higher concentration of the growth hormone in the blood, causing the genetically modified salmon to grow much more rapidly than it would naturally.
Controversy has arisen, as some view the genetically altered salmon as a potential threat to wild salmon stocks should it escape or if it is ever released into the wild. AquaBounty Technologies has attempted to address these concerns by stating that all of the transgenic salmon to be raised to adulthood and harvested for markets will be sterile females. This strict practice, they maintain, will prevent any chance of the genetic modifications being spread into wild salmon stocks, some of whose populations are critically low or endangered. Were one of the sterile transgenic salmon to escape, they state, it would be incapable of spreading its genes to another generation, lacking knowledge of a spawn point and any ability to reproduce.
The genetic modification allows the salmon to grow year-round by increasing natural production of growth hormone and reducing sensitivity to cold. Transgenic salmon are fully mature in two-thirds of the time that it takes their wild counterparts to reach maturity. Chefs and grocers in numerous US states have agreed not to sell the new fish, citing concerns over its safety for human consumption despite no scientific evidence showing risk.
In June 2006, the Unilever company announced that it would use genetically modified yeast to grow antifreeze proteins based on a gene from the ocean pout, and use it to improve the consistency and storage properties of its ice cream brands.
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Killen, S. S.; Brown, J. A.; Gamperal, A. K. (February 2008). "Lack of metabolic thermal compensation during the early life stages of ocean pout Zoarces americanus (Bloch & Schneider): a benthic, cold-water marine species". Journal of Fish Biology. 72 (3): 763-772. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8649.2007.01735.x.
McAlpine, Donald F. (January 2013). "The Ocean Pout, Zoarces americanus, and the Ocean Sunfish, Mola mola: Additions to the Marine Ichthyofauna of the Lower Saint John River System, New Brunswick, with a Summary of Marine Fish Reported from the Estuary". Canadian Field-Naturalist. 127 (1): 38–43.
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