Who could possibly believe that researchers accidentally bred a hybrid of living fossils! Allow me to introduce living fossils to you before; living fossils are those who’re a living example of organisms that belongs to an otherwise extinct group that has remained unchanged virtually over millions of years, for example, the horseshoe crab. However, the accident marks one of the many days of an impossible breakthrough in science.
Hungarian researchers were instead trying to produce the offspring of Russian sturgeon through a system of asexual production known as gynogenesis. This process does not require the actual contribution paternal DNA but the presence of sperm is essential, which is why Paddlefish sperm was used on the negative control group. The Russian sturgeon is popularly known for its eggs which are sold as high-end caviar, while the American paddlefish is recognized with its long snout. Due to their slow evolution and ancient lineage, both species are known as living fossil fishes and are critically endangered. Since their existence is on the verge of being wiped out from the face of this planet, scientists and researchers are understandably curious to know if these fishes could be bred in captivity.
However, things turned 180 degrees opposite when the paddlefish sperms “unexpectedly” fertilized the sturgeon eggs. The amounts of maternal and paternal DNA varied across few of the little fishes that hatched from the eggs, while others had equal amounts of DNA. These findings were revealed and published in the journal Genes by Attila Mozsár along with other scientists from the Research Institute for Fisheries and Aquaculture in Hungary. This study marks the first-ever successful hybridization between the Russian sturgeon and the American paddlefish, and also between the Acipenseridae and Polyodontidae families. It’s bizarre yet fascinating how scientists who never wanted to breed a hybrid of two living fossils, changed the impossible to possible, unintentionally.