What jellyfish can show us about complex evolution through simple genomes

1-14-2019 jelly cc
A Pacific sea nettle (Chrysaora fuscescens) at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, USA. Image credit: Dan90266/Flickr

You might expect that as bodies became more complex, genomes did as well.

But a recent study appearing in Nature Ecology & Evolution shows that not to be the case — at least for jellyfish, humble organisms that evolved at a crucial juncture in animal history. They did not need more genes — or even notably different ones — to power their giant leap in complexity.

Medusas actively hunt plankton and navigate the water column with neural sensory structures that detect light and orientation. To go from being a stationary polyp to a floating medusa is almost akin to humans evolving the ability to swim through the air and capture birds with springy, netlike appendages.

If a radical shift in life history requires a big boost in gene content, the Aurelia genome should be riddled with novel genes unique to jellyfish. Instead, Gold found that, broadly speaking, “there really isn’t a whole lot of difference between Aurelia and their relatives with simpler lifestyles.”

Related article:  Podcast: From the Black Death to COVID-19—Investigating the ancient war between genes and disease

In any case, for now, the genetic changes that orchestrate this metamorphosis in jellyfish remain unknown. The transformation may depend on regions of the genome that don’t encode proteins, but instead regulate when genes are turned on and off. Perhaps it’s easier for life to innovate by rearranging its existing gene networks instead of evolving scores of new genes.

Read full, original post: Jellyfish Genome Hints That Complexity Isn’t Genetically Complex

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
Infographic: What are mRNA COVID-19 vaccines and how do they work?

Infographic: What are mRNA COVID-19 vaccines and how do they work?

As of 1 December 2020, thirteen vaccines have reached the final stage of testing: where they are being given to ...
favicon

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
glp menu logo outlined

Newsletter Subscription

Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend