Scientists are figuring out how to reduce the boniness of fish. On March 7, researchers from the Heilongjiang Fishery Research Institute announced they had been able to create and breed crucian carp without “intermuscular bones.”

Unlike in much of the U.S., in China carp are considered a good-eating species of fish. That said, the Heilongjiang Fishery Research Institute scientists considered the fish’s boniness an issue—and took the matters into their own hands. They identified a key gene that controls the growth of the fish’s intermuscular spine, known as bmp6. They were able to isolate and remove the gene without impacting the fish’s growth or reproduction. They hatched 35 genetically-modified carp in 2020. By the third generation in 2022, they were able to breed 20,000 crucian carp with 100 percent effectiveness in removing the intermuscular bones. They say it’s the first time “boneless” crucian carp have ever been cultivated.

fish X-Ray showing bones
The image on the right shows a crucian carp without intermuscular bones. Heilongjiang Fishery Research Institute

The rest of the fish’s bone structure remains intact. Essentially, they were able to remove the bones from within the fillets while not impacting the rest of the fish. “The fish grew well and are superficially indistinguishable from normal crucian carp,” researcher Kuang Youyi told It’s not immediately clear what would happen if such genetically modified fish escaped into natural waterways.

“[Boneless fish] can greatly change the global fish diet culture and habits, and have a profound impact on boosting consumption of aquatic products in the future,” added Li Shaowu. “The genetic improvement of crucian carp without intermuscular bones is an effective way to solve the problem of large quantity but low efficiency of crucian carp production.”

Read Next: Illinois Announces New, More Palatable Name for Asian Carp

According to the Texas Invasive Species Institute, crucian carp are typically gold with laterally compressed bodies. They typically grow to around 11 pounds and 20 inches in length. Unlike some varieties of Asian carp, the species has not established any invasive populations in the U.S. Crucian carp can survive in waterbodies with low oxygen levels.

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