DNA-based technique characterized commercially important groupers in the Philippines
Twenty-seven species of grouper, locally known as Lapu-lapu, have been molecularly identified through DNA fingerprinting and barcoding. The Central Luzon State University (CLSU) has successfully conducted the first molecular inventory of different species of commercially important Lapu-lapu through a research project with support from the Biotechnology Program of the Department of Agriculture.
The initiative identified the highly diverse grouper population in the country with an average rate of 20% genetic distance within family, 15% within genus, and 0.68% within species. Using a genetic marker, 94 barcodes have been generated to identify and differentiate the 27 Lapu-lapu species. Most of the identified species include groupers belonging toEpinephelus (large sea fish), Cephalopholis (aquarium fish) and Plectropomus (species of leopard coral grouper, spotted coral grouper, and black saddled coral grouper). Slender grouper (Anyperodon leucogrammicus) and humpback grouper (Chromileptis altivelis) have also been identified.
Samples were collected from major fish landing sites and markets in 11 provinces namely Cagayan, Pangasinan, Aurora, Bulacan, Batangas, Samar, Palawan, Iloilo, Davao, Zamboanga, and General Santos from 2011 to 2013.
The study led by Dr. Apolinario V. Yambot, Head of the Biotechnology and Analytical Laboratory Project, CLSU and an expert of fish immunology and DNA characterization, also generated novel genetic information for Cephalopholis microprion (dothead rockcod), Cephalopholis polleni (blue-lined grouper), and Epinephelus poecilonotus (dot-dash grouper) that is not available in GenBank database prior to the study. GenBank is an annotated collection of all publicly available DNA sequences. This database is hosted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information in USA to provide the scientific community with up-to-date and comprehensive information on DNA sequences for research, trade, management, aquaculture or other related purposes.
More importantly, six of the identified grouper species have been found to have status of vulnerable and near-threatened species in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. These include black saddled coral grouper, humpback grouper, orange-spotted grouper (E. coioides), black marbled grouper (E. fuscoguttatus), Malabar grouper (E. malabaricus), and leopard coral grouper. These same species are listed in the Live Reef Food Fish Trade in the Philippines, an important industry that provides huge income opportunities to fisherfolks. The Philippines and Indonesia are the main supply sources of some grouper species in Hongkong.
The biotechnology tool, DNA barcoding, made possible the identification of grouper specimens at the species-level with high degree of confidence and efficiency. This inventory is the first for Lapu-lapu or grouper since previous studies were based only on morphological characterization, which may be inconclusive and may cause confusion on grouper taxonomy especially in the absence of a trained specialist.
The resulting information of the study is highly relevant in implementing and enhancing efficient assessment and inventory of fisheries and aquatic resources with high economic value for domestic consumption, trade, and most importantly, management for protection and conservation as the economic potential of the grouper industry has created more fishing pressures, overexploitation and depletion of high value fishes.
The publication of the full length research paper on this topic is printed in the Mitochondrial DNA, Informa Healthcare and it can be accessed online via link: DNA barcoding of commercially important Grouper species (Perciformes, Serranidae) in the Philippines, Mitochondrial DNA, Informa Healthcare
The publication is authored by Mr. Simon Alcantara and Dr. Apolinario Yambot of CLSU.