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Human-like spine morphology found in aquatic eel fossil
Date:5/22/2012

vironments or other selective pressures may produce convergent evolution of this complex spinal organization. It also questions whether tetrapod-like expression of a family of factors responsible for body patterning the Hox genes is ancestral for both vertebrates and fishes, or truly essential for the development of these spinal segments. Since most knowledge about the relationship between Hox genes and body pattern development is based on genetic studies of modern tetrapods, the new finding emphasizes the need for more testing in fish species.

"Part of the problem is that the Hox expression data is available only for a few model organisms," Sallan said. "What's really needed is some expression data from other ray-finned fishes and tetrapods, things that are not mouse and chick and zebrafish. We need to try to get the full diversity of Hox expression."

It's also unclear how Tarrasius used its unexpectedly intricate spinal column in its daily life. Sallan speculates that the bony vertebrae may have been useful in propelling the fish's body during fast swimming, similar to the stiff vertebrae of modern marlins.

"I think it must help with stiffening the body, because the tail is so flexible," Sallan said. "If you look at the general shape, it's more like a tadpole or an early tetrapod, so it might just function to hold the body steady because the tail is flapping."


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Contact: Rob Mitchum
robert.mitchum@uchospitals.edu
773-795-5227
University of Chicago Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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