透過基因工程來保護魔鬼魚

魔鬼魚是鬼蝠魟的近親。牠們喜歡群聚在一起,某些種類還會跳出水面。因為如此,牠們是許多潛水客的最愛,但這些迷人的生物近年來受到人類的威脅,其中很大的原因是「鰓板交易」。

每年世界各地有大量的魔鬼魚被拖出水面,並且在沙灘上被宰殺。這全是為了取得魔鬼魚羽毛狀的鰓板,魔鬼魚利用鰓板來過濾牠們的獵物,像是浮游生物或小魚。這些鰓板在亞洲的一部份國家被販售只因為沒有科學證明的中藥療效。

不幸地,魔鬼魚常常成為捕捉的目標,並且因此死亡。更糟糕的是,九種魔鬼魚是出名的繁殖緩慢的軟骨魚類,雌性花費數年到達可生殖的狀態並且幾年內只產下一個後代。這些種類近年來有很大的衰退,在某些地方,衰退率更達99%。

Devil Rays In Distress

Killed for their gills, these graceful creatures are in distress. SHARE if you support #CITES4Seas

Racing Extinction 貼上了 2016年9月21日

新的法規

2016年的九月與十月,在南非約翰尼斯堡召開的第十七次瀕臨絕種野生動植物國際貿易公約會議[ Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) ] ;183個國家代表共同協議有關九種魔鬼魚的貿易規則。

我非常幸運能夠參與這場會議,並且看著提案以三分之二多數決通過。這些新的規定將會在2017年四月開始實行,從那時起,魔鬼魚與其任何一部分的交易將成非法。

The famed leap/ Shutterstock

基因辨識

對於將實施的魔鬼魚相關法規有一個問題;如何去區辨牠們的種類?市場中販售的常常只剩下鰓板。有鑑於此,魔鬼魚的清單也會有助於現存受保護的鬼蝠魟。

我的很大一部分工作是開發可以辨認魔鬼魚(或牠們的任何一部分)與了解牠們來源的可追蹤性工具。目的是為了幫助新實施的法規加強與監測非法行動。我同時也在鬼蝠魟方面也有做相關的工具。

Manta ray: will also benefit from devil ray protection/ Shutterstock

Essentially, we take tissue samples from individuals of known species and sequence short fragments of the DNA that they contain. This allows us to build up a picture of the genetic signatures of each species and population, to which we can compare samples from an unknown individual or part. What we are looking for is a minimum number of regions within the genome that are unique enough within species to give us confidence in assignment and this assists us in identifying which species it came from.

The project is fortunate to have had a lot of support from international researchers and organisations, and therefore has access to one of the world’s most comprehensive sets of manta and devil ray tissue samples, which will allow the final tool to be as robust as possible. The hope is, that with regulations such as CITES effectively enforced, marine life will still be as vibrant and exciting for many generations to come.

文章來源: The Conversation; 閱讀原文