Illustration for article titled Scientists genetically engineer a female-only prawn population to create a better world
Photo: JethuynhCan (Getty Images)

The giant river prawn is a staple of southeast Asian cuisine. It’s also a very fussy creature. It can live only in fresh water between 79 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. When aquacultivators try to farm them, the close quarters make the males aggressive, leading to big prawn fights with big prawn carnage.

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But now a group of Israeli scientists has hit upon a novel solution to the problem. What if they were able to genetically engineer an all-female prawn population? Then there would be peace in the prawn tanks and more prawns for everyone.

It’s not as hard to genetically engineer an all-female prawn population as you might think, at least if you know what you’re doing. This article in Ars Technica makes the process sound positively elementary. You take some cells from the hormone producing organ in a male prawn and inject them into young female prawns, who will then develop as male prawns, even though genetically they’ll remain female. Prawns have a sex-determining genetic structure that’s a lot like the human X and Y process, so when these genetically engineered prawns mate, they’ll only have female genes and they’ll only produce female prawns.

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An all-female prawn population means more prawns for humans to eat. Plus the prawns are predators of water snails that carry a disease called Snail Fever, and they discharge a small amount of water every day that can be used to irrigate crops. Also, think of the marketing possibilities of selling prawns from the Negev Desert. Oh, brave new world!

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.

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