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!