Scientists have made a big discovery on a strange, mysterious seahorse, and it could shed a lot of light on the fundamental truths of evolution.
An international research collaboration has just made a major breakthrough by sequencing the full genome of a tiger tail seahorse, which could help unveil some of the secrets of evolution itself. This is the first time that scientists have sequenced the genome of a seahorse.
The study, published in the journal Nature, states that the genome could help explain the uniqueness of bony fish. Seahorses are a particularly bizarre type of fish that don’t look like anything else, with a vertical body orientation and bony plates instead of scales. They are also the only vertebrates on the planet that can give birth via the male of the species, and they have a flexible tail that is used like a monkey’s.
There are 47 known species of seahorse around the world, but the research group focused on the tiger tails eahorse because of its abundance in Singapore, where the lab is located. The analysis of the genome is still in the very early stages, but it has already told scientists a lot about seahorse evolution.
“According to this study in “Nature”, evolution does not only act through changing major roles of genes, but it also influences regulatory elements (genetic switches) during evolution, according to a statement from the University of Konstanz. “Regulatory elements are DNA segments that control the function of genes. Some of them barely change during the course of evolution since they have important regulatory functions. But several such unchanging and seemingly crucial elements are missing in sea-horses. This is also and especially the case for elements that are responsible for the typical development of the skeleton in fish, but also in humans. This is probably one of the reasons why the seahorse’s skeleton has been so greatly modified. It lacks ribs, for example. Instead, its body is armoured with bony plates that add strength and better protection from predators. Additionally, its prehensile curly tail allows seahorses to be camouflaged and remain motionless by holding on to seaweed or corals. The genome sequences suggest that the loss of the corresponding regulatory sequence led to this ossification.”