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Genome sequencing of the living coelacanth sheds light on the evolution of land vertebrate
Date:4/17/2013

s are genealogically placed in-between the ray-finned fishes (such as goldfish and guppies) and the tetrapods − the first four-limbed vertebrates and their descendants, including living and extinct amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. A lobe-finned ancestor(s) underwent genomic changes that accompanied the transition of life in an aquatic environment to life on land. The coelacanth is undeniably a fish, however, phylogenetic analyses show that its genes are more like those of tetrapods than of ray-finned fishes. Additionally, coelacanth genes evolve at a considerably slower rate than those of tetrapods, a fact that is coincident with its apparently slow rate of morphological change.

"For evolutionary biologists the coelacanth is an iconic animal, as familiar as Darwin's finches on the Galapagos," says Toby Bradshaw, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Biology, University of Washington. "This paper by Chris and colleagues gives us our first comprehensive look at the coelacanth's place in our evolutionary history, and provides fascinating insights into the specific vertebrate genes involved in the critical transition from water to land − it seems that both loss and gain of gene function were required. I find the proposed gain-of-function changes in gene regulation for limb development particularly compelling, supported by experimental evidence that the lobed fins of the coelacanth really are akin to prototypical legs. Making legs from fins is a wonderful example of Francois Jacob's observation that 'evolution is a tinkerer, not an engineer.'" Adds Gerald Nepom, MD, PhD, Director of the Benaroya Research Institute, "This work represents a major accomplishment by a large and talented group of investigators, opening a new book of knowledge about adaptation that is now available to all scientists who want to better understand our complex genetic origins."

Genome sequencing is a laboratory and computational process that determines t
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Contact: Kay Branz
kbranz@benaroyaresearch.org
206-342-6903
Immune Tolerance Network
Source:Eurekalert

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