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Adapting to darkness: How behavioral and genetic changes helped cavefish survive extreme environment
Date:9/14/2010

n, and then released them in the water. This glue then peeled off from their skin as they moved in the water, and removed the superficial neuromast hair cells, or at least reduced their sensing ability," explains Yoshizawa. "You can imagine that it is kind of like waxing your legs."

Without the sensing ability of the SN, the cavefish no longer exhibited the VAB, while the surface dwelling fish did not exhibit any more or less VAB. The team went on to explore the role that the number and size of the SN played in VAB, as the cave dwelling fish have more and larger SN cells and were the most likely to exhibit the adaptive behavior. Yoshizawa made a genetic cross between the surface fish and the cave dwelling fish to get a hybrid species. The cave dwelling fish, who have more and larger superficial neuromast (SN) cells, were most likely to exhibit the adaptive behavior. The hybrid fish showed an intermediate number of neuromasts and also exhibited an intermediate vibration attraction behavior reaction -- more than the surface fish, but less than the cave fish.

From this, the research team concluded that the VAB and SN enhancement coevolved to compensate for loss of vision and to help blind cavefish find food in darkness. This study adds important new information about how Mexican blind cavefish have adapted to their extreme environment through evolutionary changes. The next step in this research will be to identify the gene or genes involved in VAB, which offers the exciting possibility of understanding this behavioral shift at the molecular level.


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Contact: Kelly Blake
kellyb@umd.edu
301-405-8203
University of Maryland
Source:Eurekalert  

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