Breakthrough Chinese research has produced a way to genetically modify white sea cucumbers, one of the most rare and expensive marine animals, which will allow the fuckle animals to be grown in marine ponds. The advancement will make the currently rare and expensive delicacy a common delight.
Sea cucumbers are tiny sea creatures found at the bottom of the sea that have a leathery exterior and a distinct cylindrical appearance. They get their name because they resemble common cucumbers.
White sea cucumbers are a special breed of the marine animals. The white creatures have been a delicacy in China for thousands of years but cannot be found on dinner tables across the country very often because they are rare. So much so that only one can be found for every 200,000 sea cucumbers. The creatures are not able to camouflage themselves and thus become an easy prey for predators. Making them even more rare is the fact their white gene is not passed on to their offspring.
This rarity makes the sea creatures worth more than gold thanks to hungry Chinese buyers. Just 200 grams of the creatures sell for more than $16000, twice the value of a 200 gram gold bar.
Some people believe the white sea cucumbers have medicinal value and can cure diseases such as cancer.
But the high price tag, medical values and dining demand were not the reasons for scientists’ genetic modification of the animal. According to Yang Hongsheng, lead scientist and deputy Director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Oceanology, “They may hold the key to solving many mysteries of marine biology.”
The creatures exhibit quite a number of unusual, almost bizarre traits: they hibernate in the summer, they can eject and regenerate their intestines and when they die, they release a chemical that dissolves their bodies, leaving behind no trace. This form of death was not found in any other known species.
Scientists who were amazed by the creatures’ properties completed their first genetic map for the marine cucumbers, modified the ‘albinism’ gene in the white cucumbers and were able to make over 150 million little white sea cucumbers.
Scientists hope the research will give more insight into the sea cucumber’s unusual traits.
Genetic modification of organisms is a widespread practice in today’s world. Through the practice, scientists are able to create new organisms and study their habits and possibly apply their findings to making life on earth easier for humans.