photo credit: Bethany A. Stahl
Animals that move from surface habitats into caves exhibit evolutionally related changes in their new environments. Perhaps the most dramatic is eye loss, but there are also other changes, such as skin pigmentation and sleeping patterns. Researchers believe that studying how these changes occur and the genes involved could provide insights into some human conditions, such as degenerative eye diseases.
Assistant Professor Suzanne McGaugh, an MSI Principal Investigator from the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior (College of Biological Sciences) was the lead researcher on a recent paper that disclosed the first de novo genome assembly for the cavefish Astyanax mexicanus, the Mexican tetra fish. This discovery allows researchers to identify genes that may be involved with the evolution of traits specific to cave species. This will support further research into the mechanisms of evolutionary change and may help us to understand the underlying causes of various human diseases. The article was published online in Nature Communications on October 20, 2014. (McGaugh S.E. et al. The cavefish genome reveals candidate genes for eye loss. Nat. Commun. 5:5307 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms6307 (2014)).
Professor McGaugh uses MSI resources to perform large-scale genomic analyses, which require considerable computational power. Besides studies of cavefish, the McGaugh group is studying the transcriptomes of reptiles.
An article about this research also appeared on the University of Minnesota’s Discover blog.
Image description: a,b: surface fish; c,d: Pachón cavefish. Scale bar for a,c is 1 cm. Scale bar for b,d is 0.25 cm. (Image and description, McGaugh S.E. et al., The cavefish genome reveals candidate genes for eye loss. Nat. Commun. 5:5307 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms6307 (2014). ©Nature Publishing Group.
posted on November 12, 2014