Baitfish in Space

Astronauts bring 32 killifish to the International Space Station.

Who knew there were baitfish in space?

Last week, three astronauts returned to the International Space Station and brought along 32 Japanese medaka fish (Oryzias latipes).

The popular aquarium fish species is both hardy and colorful, ideal for the space station's new fish tank. That fish tank is actually pretty complex and it's called an AQH, or aquatic habitat.

Space researchers will use the facility to look at how microgravity impacts marine life, with much of the work sponsored by the Japanese Space Agency. The medaka fish is known a "model species," which means that it's heavily studied to understand biological phenomena.

According to NASA's release, "Scientists have multiple studies planned to look at the impacts of radiation, bone degradation, muscle atrophy, and developmental biology. The investigations could last up to 90 days and provide data that may lead to a better understanding of related human health concerns here on Earth."

Japanese medaka fish are a type of killifish. Anglers may recognize some its brackish baitfish family members, including bull minnows (Fundulus grandis) and mummichog (Fundulus heteroclitus).

So the next time you're tying a Clouser variation of the mummichog, remember that there are a couple of those lowly baitfish swimming about 240 miles above your head.