Fastest maturing vertebrate on record
A fishy strategy to survive drought in Africa.
The turquoise killifish ( Nothobranchius
furzeri) employs a stop-start life strategy to survive in the ephemeral pools of the African savanna.
Like seeds, tiny embryos sealed in a protective case lie dormant in sediments and spring to life when rain falls. Because of their short life cycle, the small, colourful fish are ideal models for genetics and ageing research. In the lab their time to reach sexual maturity ranges from 18 days to as long as 10 weeks.
But till now, no-one had timed how fast they could mature from hatching in the wild. Martin Reichard from the Czech Academy of Sciences decided to observe the fish in its natural habitat, southern Mozambique. The findings, published in Current Biology, reveal that the killifish clocked in at just 14 days, the fastest rate of sexual maturation recorded for any vertebrate.
Live fast, die young.