© Hector Fellow Academy
14. September 2021
Paper by Axel Meyer published

Inter­na­tional research team presents genome of the "sea dragon" in Science Advances

A research team with partic­i­pa­tion of the Evolu­tion­ary Biolo­gist Axel Meyer from Constance deter­mines the genome of the "sea dragon". The new insights contribute to answer­ing the question of inven­tions in evolution.

Sea dragons belong to the seahorse family (syngnathids), which also includes seahorses themselves and pipefish. They get their name because of their kite-shaped body, spectac­u­lar coloration, and special leaf-like skin appendages. They have a tubular, tooth­less mouth, have lost the pelvic and caudal fins typical of fish, as well as their scales, but in contrast have a bony carapace that encases the entire body. As with all other seahorse species, males rather than females become "pregnant" by carry­ing the bright pink eggs glued to their bodies to protect them until they hatch.

In sequenc­ing the genome and study­ing the genetic basis of exter­nal features of sea dragons, the five research groups from China, Singa­pore, Japan and Germany have focused mainly on sex deter­mi­na­tion, missing teeth and newly-evolved skin flakes of sea dragons.

The leaf-like skin scraps of the sea dragons are trans­formed fin rays. Genome analy­sis showed that several genes that contribute to the devel­op­ment of teeth in other fishes and also in humans beeings. In general, the location of sex deter­mi­na­tion in fish is diffi­cult to deter­mine because they usually do not have specific sexual chromo­somes like the X and Y chromo­somes in mammals. The molec­u­lar basis of sex deter­mi­na­tion, it was found, lies with the so-called Muller­ian hormone, which has already been shown to be crucial for sex deter­mi­na­tion in seahorses.

Axel Meyer: "In our research, we try to derive the pheno­type of the genome, the 'essence' of animals, so to speak. We thus try to under­stand what an animal looks like, based on the genome sequence and the under­stand­ing of the function of genes.”

Congrat­u­la­tions to Axel Meyer!