Proceedings of the Third World Fisheries Congress: Feeding the World with Fish in the Next Millenium—The Balance between Production and Environment

Advances in Fish Genetic Breeding in China

Jian-fang Gui


Fish culture has been practiced for at least 3,000 years in China. About 2,500 years ago, the earliest and the greatest monograph on the topic, Handbook of Fish Culture, was created by Li Fan. In this book—the earliest known literature on fish culture in the world—Fan summarized the experiences of the culture of common carp Cyprinus carpio. Since then, fish farming has become a traditional industry, and aquacultural technologies have been established and improved from generation to generation of Chinese farmers. Valuable fish species such as silver carp Hypophthalmichthys molitrix, bighead carp Aristichthys nobilis, grass carp Ctenopharyngodon idella, and black carp Mylopharyngodon piceu, now known as the “four important domestic fishes,” have been selected as culture targets. Based on the feeding habits of these fishes, Chinese farmers invented the multiculture method of stocking species with different feeding habits together in one fish pond. In this way, farmers gain maximum output at minimum cost. These domesticated species and the multiculture method have been favorably adopted in many countries (Liu and He 1992; Gui 1999a).

In the 1960s, the breakthrough of artificial ovulation and propagation techniques for the four important domestic fishes (Zhong et al. 1965) radically changed the passive situation in which fish aquaculture had been limited by natural fry, and a new era of rapid aquacultural development was created in China. Simultaneously, the success of these techniques provided the opportunity for embryonic and genetic manipulation, and the rapid development of commercial fish culture stimulated investigations about fish genetics and breeding (Wu 1990; Li 1998). During the past two decades, a great deal of progress has been made in theoretical and applied studies on fish cytogenetics, somatic cell genetics, molecular genetics, and developmental genetics. Many breeding techniques have been established, such as gynogenesis, polyploid induction, sex control, nuclear transplantation, and gene transfer. An intersupplementary technological system has been formed. Some novel superior breed strains have been produced and play important roles in aquaculture practice.

In this paper, I summarize the advances and major achievements in fish genetics and breeding in China from a comprehensive literature review and personal knowledge gained in nearly 20 years of research on fish genetics and breeding.

Gynogenesis is a rare reproductive mode in fish (Gui 1989). A few species, including the Amazon molly Poecilia formosa (Hubbs and Hubbs 1932); all-female hybrids Poeciliopsis 2 monacha-lucida, Poeciliopsis monacha-2-lucida, and Poeciliopsis monacha-lucida-occidentais (Cimino 1972); silver crucian carp Carassius auratus gibelio (Cherfas 1981; Jiang et al. 1983); ginbuna Carassius auratus langsdorfii (Kobayasi et al. 1977), Amazon silverside Menidia clarkhubbsi (Anthony and Mosier 1982), and northern redbelly dace × finescale dace hybrid Phoxinus eos-neogaeus (Goddard et al. 1998) were known to reproduce by gynogenesis.

The silver crucian carp from northern China was identified in the early 1980s as a triploid fish that can reproduce by gynogenesis (Jiang et al. 1982, 1983; Yu 1982). Compared with its relative gynogenetic crucian carp (Cherfas 1981; Kobayasi 1971) and other gynogenetic species in vertebrates (Vrijenhoek et al. 1989), the fish has a unique reproductive system and exhibits several unusual characteristics:

• it exists as a bisexual population consisting of females as the majority and males as the minority (approximately 20%) in natural habitats (Jiang et al. 1983);
• gynogenesis can be easily initiated by sperm from other fish species (Gui 1999a); and
• surprisingly, besides stimulating and activating egg development, heterologous sperm from other species of fish are able to contribute to the phenotype and growth of gynogenetic offspring.