Vector blog's Tom Ulrich has written a very interesting entry about the importance of the humble zebrafish in biomedicine. He points out that zebrafish are often used in stem cell, developmental and genetic research because:
- Despite our distance from zebrafish on the evolutionary tree, they’re surprisingly similar to us from a genetic standpoint.
- Because of their small size, they can be housed at high densities.
- Compared to other model organisms like mice, they’re relatively inexpensive to care for.
- An adult female zebrafish can lay 300 eggs each week. By comparison, a mouse might have a single 12-pup litter each month.
- Their skin is permeable, so they can absorb drugs directly from the water of their tank.
- Zebrafish embryos are transparent, offering a window into their bodies; some lines, like Casper, remain transparent through adulthood.
A Children's Hospital Boston researcher also explains the popularity of zebrafish in the video above.