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With new study, aquatic comb jelly floats into new evolutionary position
Date:12/12/2013

e it allows us to determine what physical and structural features were present in animals early on," said Andy Baxevanis, Ph.D., senior author of the study and senior scientist in NHGRI's Division of Intramural Research. "These data also provide us an invaluable window for determining the order of events that led to the incredible diversity that we see in the animal kingdom."

Comb jellies possess muscle cells, but the analysis of the Mnemiopsis genome showed that comb jellies lack the vast majority of genes that specify muscle types in most other animals. According to the researchers, the absence of such a large number of muscle genes suggests that muscle cells evolved independently in comb jellies, after they diverged from the rest of the animals. Comb jellies also possess a simple form of nervous system, called a nerve net, and their genome contains many of the genes involved in the nervous system. Sponges also have these genes, suggesting that they may have had the capacity to support a nervous system and perhaps lost it.

The results of the study lead to a new way of thinking about early animal evolution. "Our analysis of the Mnemiopsis genome thoroughly corroborates previous studies suggesting that ctenophores might be the sister group to the rest of the animals," said Joseph Ryan, Ph.D., lead author and a former postdoctoral research fellow in NHGRI's Genome Technology Branch, now at the Sars International Center for Marine Molecular Biology, University of Bergen, Norway. "With our whole-genome sequencing data in hand, it is now clear that the cell types that make up muscles and nervous systems were either lost in some animal lineages or that, despite the complexity of these cells, they very well may have evolved multiple times."

"Expanding our understanding of genomes across the animal kingdom is important for gaining an understanding of evolutionary adaptation at the molecular, cellular and organismal levels," said Da
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Contact: Raymond MacDougall
macdougallr@mail.nih.gov
301-443-3523
NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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