Learning from the monkeyface prickleback

February 25, 2020

As climate change imperils traditional food sources, scientists are turning to an oddly-named vegetarian fish species for a climate-friendly protein source.

University of California – Irvine researchers are taking a look at the food sources of Cebidichthys violaceus, the fish also known as the monkeyface prickleback.

The monkeyface prickleback has a digestive system similar to that of humans, but feeds on specialized algae with low levels of lipids, fatty acids essential for all living beings.

The researchers hope to sequence and assemble a high-quality genome, or a complete set of DNA, for the fish.

“We found that the monkeyface prickleback’s digestive system is excellent at breaking down starch, which we anticipated,” researcher Donovan German told Science Daily. “But we also learned that it has adapted to be very efficient at breaking down lipids, even though lipids comprise just 5% of the algae’s composition. It is a compelling example of what we call ‘digestive specialization’ in the genome.”

The researchers hope the discovery could lead to the development of new sources of protein for human consumption.

Learning from the monkeyface prickleback