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Featured News Researchers uncover secrets of the golden barra

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Tue, 11 Jun 2024

Researchers uncover secrets of the golden barra

A school of gold barramundi. PICTURE: Mainstream Aquaculture
A school of gold barramundi. PICTURE: Mainstream Aquaculture

James Cook Ƶ researchers and Mainstream Aquaculture are a step closer to unlocking the mysteries of gold and platinum barramundi after identifying what gives the species their unique looks.

The study, , revealed that genes in the pigment-producing cells in gold and platinum barramundi lacked the ability to produce melanin and other pigments, resulting in the rare colourations of the iconic fish.

“Without the black and silver melanin shading in the skin, the other pigment cells that produce yellow and gold colours come through to make the fish look gold,” said Professor Dean Jerry, study co-author and Director of the ARC Research Hub for Supercharging Tropical Aquaculture through Genetic Solutions at James Cook Ƶ.

“In the case of platinum fish, it appears as if both melanin and yellow pigment cells stop producing pigments leaving the fish to be white/platinum in colour.”

Prof Jerry said the flesh of the golden barramundi had a lighter, whiter appearance compared to the greyer flesh of a regular barramundi.

“It does not change the eating qualities of the fish – golden barramundi have the same great taste and texture that we know of, but they look more attractive as a fillet to the consumer,” he said.

“One of the things that can put the consumer off a regular barramundi fillet is that when you compare it to, say, an imported Basa catfish fillet from Vietnam, it looks grey which wrongly gives the impression that it isn’t fresh.”

The project, which has been running for two years and conducted by post-doctoral researcher Dr Roberta Marcoli, studied barramundi of varying colours, including golden coloured barramundi produced by industry partner Mainstream Aquaculture, which has large numbers of golden barramundi broodstock in their hatchery.

Prof Jerry said now that it was understood which genes contribute to producing a golden barramundi, the team can look within those genes to identify fish with the desired genetic variation and therefore improve Mainstream Aquaculture’s ability to selectively breed them.

Mainstream Aquaculture’s Dr Paul Harrison said the company was “pleased to be working on the development of this product with researchers at James Cook Ƶ”.

“Bringing a new product like this to the market takes a lot of work involving a mix of science, selective breeding and investment in commercialisation,” he said.

“Mainstream has constructed specialist facilities for this unique breeding line and developed a large cohort of breeding stock. Unlocking the control process on colour regulation will provide a new barramundi product to consumers.”

Contacts

Media enquiries: michael.serenc@jcu.edu.au