A space experiment aimed at closely observing the development and swimming activity of medaka fry under microgravity was carried out as a part of the S*T*A*R*S Program, a space shuttle mission, in STS-107 in January 2003. Four eggs laid on earth in an artificially controlled environment were put in a container with a functionally closed ecological system and launched on the Space Shuttle Columbia. Each egg was held in place by a strip of Velcro in the container to be individually monitored by closeup CCD cameras. In the control experiment, four eggs prepared using the same experimental set-up remained on the ground. There was no appreciable difference in the time course of development between space- and ground-based embryos. In the ground experiment, embryos were observed to rotate in place enclosed with the egg membrane, whereas those in the flight unit did not rotate. One of the four eggs hatched on the 8th day after being launched into space. All four eggs hatched in the ground unit. The fry hatched in space was mostly motionless, but with occasional control of its posture with respect to references in the experimental chamber. The fry hatched on ground were observed to move actively, controlling their posture with respect to the gravity vector. These findings suggest that the absence of gravity affects the initiation process of motility of embryos and hatched fry.
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