The Amazon molly, Poecilia formosa, as a test animal in carcinogenicity studies: chronic exposures to physical agents

Natl Cancer Inst Monogr. 1984 May;65:45-52.


The Amazon molly, Poecilia formosa, a small, live-bearing fish native to Texas, has an unusual mode of reproduction that makes it highly suitable for carcinogenicity studies. The species is easy to rear and breed, and withstands handling well. Large broods of young are born, numbering up to 90 when the parent fish are fully grown. The Amazon molly reproduces gynogenetically; eggs are activated after mating with males of closely related species. The male makes no genetic contribution; sperm provides only the stimulus for egg development. The offspring of a female comprise a clone with genotypes identical to that of the mother's so that cell and tissue transplants made between members of the clone are not rejected. We used the Amazon molly as an animal model to show that damage to DNA caused by UV and ionizing radiation and by certain chemicals results in tumor development. Thyroid cells were taken from donor mollies, treated precisely in vitro with the agents, and then injected into homologous recipients. Eight months later, recipient fish had developed large thyroid tumors. The genetic homogeneity of the clone also makes the Amazon molly invaluable in acute or chronic bioassays because variability in the responses of the individual fishes is minimal. Therefore, a limited number will suffice to give statistically significant results. The findings from a study of chronic exposure to asbestos are also described.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Husbandry
  • Animals
  • Asbestos / toxicity
  • Asbestos, Serpentine
  • Biological Evolution
  • Carbon / toxicity
  • Carcinogens*
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Fishes / genetics
  • Fishes / physiology*
  • Parthenogenesis
  • Time Factors
  • Toxicology / methods*


  • Asbestos, Serpentine
  • Carcinogens
  • Asbestos
  • Carbon