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Male seahorses are nature's Mr. Mom, Texas A&M researchers say
Date:5/1/2008

Male pregnancy also results in a reversal in sex-related behaviors, Jones said. Females exhibit a competitive behavior thats normally a male-type attribute, and males end up being choosy, which is normally a more female-type attribute, he said. His lab studies the evolutionary steps leading to that reversal in behavior and the role that hormones play in the change.

Jones lab also studies how the brood pouch first evolved in seahorses and pipefish. A big question in evolutionary biology is how a novel structure gets all of the necessary genes and parts to function, Jones said. So we are trying to understand how the brood pouch and the genes required for male pregnancy arose over evolutionary time.

One of the interesting things about the brood pouch is that it appears to have evolved independently multiple times. There are two major lineages of seahorses and pipefish trunk-brooding and tail-brooding and the brood pouch structure independently evolved in each of these groups, Jones said.

Another area Jones lab is researching is the evolutionary steps that led to the unique overall shape of seahorses. How do you go from just being a regular-old looking fish to being something really unusual like a seahorse? Jones said. There are a lot of evolutionary steps involved in that.

Jones explained that the first step in the evolutionary process was the elongation of the fishs body, which the lab is currently studying. The next step was the addition of other unique structural features that seahorses possess, such as the bending of the fish into its unique shape. The head of a seahorse is unusual because unlike most fish, a seahorses head is at a 90-degree angle to its body, Jones explained. Seahorses also have a prehensile tail, meaning that, unlike most fish, they can use their tail to grasp onto things.

These are all interesting changes, and were interested in studying how these novel traits arose and the evolutionary st
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Contact: Keith Randall
keith-randall@tamu.edu
979-845-4644
Texas A&M University
Source:Eurekalert

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