New species of short-lived fish may provide Czech scientists with insights into ageing

Nothobranchius Kadleci, photo:

Czech scientists working in Mozambique have discovered a new species of fish that inhabits the rain pools of the savannah. Types of tiny killifish are found in many parts of the world, but what is unique to Nothobranchius Kadleci - named after the well-known Brno ichthyologist Jaroslav Kadlec - is its very short lifespan of only four months. The team from the Institute of Vertebrate Biology in Brno believe that the new discovery may eventually provide important insights into the understanding of aging, even in humans. I spoke to the institute’s Martin Reichard.

Nothobranchius Kadleci,  photo:
“We discovered the fish during a field expedition to Mozambique in 2008 and the fish are short-lived, so they only live during the rainy season when the savannah is flooded and temporary pools are formed. So, they hatch from the eggs that survive the dry season in the mud, and they grow very fast and within, say, three to four weeks they are able to start reproducing and their lifespan is about four months. So we studied the biology of this fish and the connection between the biology and possible use in studies on aging in vertebrates in general.”

But many animals live for only several weeks, what’s special about this species?

“Well what’s very special is that it’s a vertebrate species, like all mammals, including humans. So for vertebrates it’s an extremely short lifespan. Of course, if you talk about insects and other, invertebrate animals, such a lifespan is nothing special.”

How exactly could this be used to aid the understanding of ageing in humans?

“Well this is one ongoing project we are doing in cooperation with a research institute in Germany using a similar species to investigate different, say, chemical drugs and how they can affect the lifespan. What we are interested in here in our Institute of Vertebrate Biology is finding out how this evolved naturally; how evolution could shape such a very short lifespan. So for us it’s ideal because we now have a so-called sister species, the one most closely related to that widely used species. So we can now do comparative studies between several species.”

Martin Reichard
When it has such a delicate ecosystem how do you study it? I suppose you have to be there in Africa.

“Yes of course, we go to Africa regularly at the end of the rainy season, and actually we will be departing for Mozambique again in two weeks.”

So you can’t study the fish in the Czech Republic?

“Well, we can; we can do aquarium experiments, but of course you have to have knowledge from the field, so you have to go to Mozambique, and we also need to bring fish back to study them.”