Researchers amazing discoveries on seahorses could lead to a better understanding of the evolutionary process. A group of international researchers wants to know what makes a seahorse so different from other fishes and sea creatures. They began to sequence the genome of a tiger tail seahorse, one of the 47 known species of seahorses in the world today.
What Is Genome Sequencing?
Genome Sequencing is a laboratory process that determines the complete DNA sequence of an organism's genome at a single time. This entails sequencing all of an organism's chromosomal DNA as well as DNA contained in the mitochondria and, for plants, in the chloroplast. As describe by Genome News Network, genome sequencing is often compared to "decoding," but a sequence is still very much in code. In a sense, a genome sequence is simply a very long string of letters in a mysterious language.
Seahorse Evolution Investigate By Researchers Using Genome Sequencing
According to Babw News, this is the first attempt at sequencing the seahorse genome. The researchers are hoping the process might explain why seahorse don’t resemble any other ocean creatures. They are the only vertebrates on Earth that reproduce through the male of the species, and combine that with the vertical body orientation and bony plates covering the body instead of scales, that is certainly a unique specimen to study.
"They are such iconic animals, one of the examples of the exuberance of evolution," said Axel Meyer, one of the authors of the study from Germany. Other researchers are from China and Singapore. To understand how these creatures get their horse-like features, as reported by TechTimes, Meyer and his colleagues sequenced the genome of a Southeast Asian tiger tail seahorse and analyzed each underpinning. They discovered that seahorse lacks an important gene known as tbx4.
Is TBX4 Important?
Tbx4 is a transcription factor and member of the T-box family, which have been shown to play important role in fetal development. Tbx4 is expressed in a wide variety of tissues during organogenesis, including the hindlimb, proctodeum, mandibular mesenchyme, lung mesenchyme, the atrium of the heart and the body wall. Along with Tbx4, Tbx5 is also expressed to help with the development of limbs.
Researchers of the seahorse genome provide insights into the genetic basis of the unique traits of these creatures, such as their equine body shape and male pregnancy. The study, published in Nature this week, highlights the evolution of the seahorse genome, suggesting a higher evolutionary rate compared with the genomes of its close relatives. They also find that the absence of tbx4 in the seahorse lineage may have had a role in the loss of pelvic fins.