cephalopods evolve differently

Discussion in 'Biology & Genetics' started by sculptor, Apr 8, 2017.

  1. sculptor Valued Senior Member

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    The octopus is an animal with a seemingly endless amount of weird and wonderful traits, all the way down to its DNA. A new report published in the journal Cell has revealed yet another bizarre facet of cephalopod biology: the way they update their genes.

    Coeloid cephalopods (that’s octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish) have evolved some truly mind-boggling abilities, from Houdini-like escape to crafting makeshift hunting blinds. They lack the standard optical equipment for color vision, yet scientists believe they can see in color anyway. And where warming waters have weakened other species, cephalopods populations appear to be booming.

    The original cephalopod ancestor did not have all these traits. Their unique gifts, like ours, are the result of millions of years of evolution.

    Animal evolution works like this: the genetic code of every member of a species is almost identical, but not quite. Each individual has a few DNA mutations that make it unique. When those mutations are advantageous in the environment, their owners will survive, reproduce, and pass the mutated DNA down to the next generation.

    We also make changes to our RNA, but these are so scarce—in humans, just a few dozen sites amid roughly 20,000 genes—that their influence is relatively small.

    But our rubbery-armed friends have apparently turned this system on its head. Researchers reviewing coeloid genomes say the cephalopods have evolved mostly through small, fluid changes to their RNA, and that their DNA doesn’t look like it’s been updated much at all.

    The scientists found that around 11,000 of a squid’s 20,000 genes code for mutable RNA. Octopuses and cuttlefish genetics showed similar ratios, especially in the genes associated with their super-amazing, super-complex nervous systems. Nautiluses, those simpletons of the cephalopod family, looked more like us.
    ...
    Neurobiologist Clifton Ragdale of the University of Chicago was unaffiliated with the research but has worked on cephalopod genetics in the past. Speaking with Scientific American, he said the animals’ bizarro evolution scheme essentially represents “an alternative engine for cephalopod evolution.”

    Ragsdale noted that scientists use DNA changes, not RNA, when determining evolutionary history. “This may mean that our molecular clock estimates of when different cephalopod lineages arose and diverged might be too recent. The Nobel Prize–winning biologist Sydney Brenner once said that octopi were the first intelligent beings on Earth. This could prove he was right.”

    OK
    What do you think?
    Does this seem accurate?
     
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  3. karenmansker HSIRI Banned

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    Can you provide any reference source(s) links for your post?
     
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  5. sculptor Valued Senior Member

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  7. karenmansker HSIRI Banned

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  8. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    If the current notion that RNA came first, as the evolving thing, and DNA came along later as a more stable and easily defended cache of the RNA based evolutionary change, this might be the way it was done first.

    But I'd guess otherwise - the fact that its net effect is to slow down DNA evolutionary change, to sequester the impact of things like Baldwin effects away from the core genome and out in the RNA translation machinery, looks like a disadvantage when responding to large environmental change in geological time. It's been a bit of a mystery why there are no tree-dwelling octopods, or even freshwater adapted, for example - this explains it. They get outrun.
     
  9. rpenner Fully Wired Staff Member

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    danshawen likes this.
  10. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Ah.
    That seems to eliminate "this came first" as an explanation.

    Next question might be whether this accounts for what strikes me, perhaps naively, as oddly short lifespans among animals as intelligent as octopods. It's like they don't live long enough to make that kind of learning ability pay off. Is there some kind of fragility inherent in that setup - an accelerated correspondence to the copying errors and telomere shortenings that doom the rest of us?
     
  11. rpenner Fully Wired Staff Member

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    I believe the indication of slowing of genetic drift -- the conservation of these sections of the genome responsible for RNA-edited transcription, indicates that it is a fragile system -- some mutations which would be neutral because of redundancy in the amino acid translation become deleterious because the RNA transcription is altered in sensitive areas.
     

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