Adult zebrafish are small in size and breed readily
Zebrafish adults are small, around 3-5 cm in length, and they like to be housed together in shoals. They are batch spawners capable of laying hundreds to thousands of embryos a week.
The eggs are externally fertilized
Female fish lay eggs into the water around her, where they are fertilized by the males, allowing collection the eggs as soon as they're laid.
Embryos develop quickly
They develop from a single cell in a fertilized egg to something that resembles a tiny fish in 24 hours. Once they are around 4-5 day post fertilization the embryos are free swimming larvae and start to catch their own food.
Embryos are transparent
The transparency of zebrafish embryos is one of the leading reasons for using them for scientific research. The ability to see through the embryos allows observation of morphological changes that occur during development.
Embryos can be genetically manipulated
Mutations can be generated and analyzed to see what happens when a gene’s normal function is altered.
Close homology to humans
Zebrafish are vertebrates and share many of the same genes as humans.
Other attractive characteristics
- Fully-sequenced genome
- Well understood, easily observable and testable developmental behaviors
- Availability of well-characterized mutants
- Drugs or chemicals may be administered by adding directly to the tank
- Inexpensive compared to other vertebrate models
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