Japanese researchers have discovered a gene believed to be vital to the normal growth of fish.

In cooperation with the Japan Science Foundation, the Fisheries Research Agency has isolated the gene which triggers fused somites – the cause of which has puzzled researchers for years, reported the Washington Fish Growers Association.

Regular build-up of somites is vital for normal growth. They later form the vertebrae and flesh of the fish. Details of the discovery, which was made using zebrafish, are to be published in the US science magazine Nature on 10 June.