University’s research into the genetic code of fish suggests it has evolved to live in the tropics
— Scientists have uncovered new genetic information about a group of fish that lived more than 2,000 years ago in the Pacific Ocean, but it may not be known whether they have evolved to survive in the more temperate environment of Asia.
In a paper published today in the journal Nature Communications, researchers at the University of Virginia and the University at Buffalo in New York analyzed the DNA of nearly 200 Pacific species.
The researchers were able to pinpoint genetic mutations in the DNA that appear to affect how fish are able to survive under extreme conditions in the tropical Pacific.
They believe the mutations appear to be caused by the presence of a gene that changes how a fish’s DNA is translated into proteins that are used by the body.
The study is the first to directly examine a gene in the genome of a Pacific species, according to a statement from the research team.
They noted that it is not yet clear if the mutation affects fish behavior, feeding or mating.
In addition to the mutation in the gene, the researchers found other mutations in more than 40 Pacific species that appear related to the genetic makeup of Pacific salmon, tuna and snapper.
The mutations, they say, may help explain why Pacific species appear to adapt to more extreme environmental conditions.
A key question for future research is how these changes in the fish’s genetic makeup relate to the changes in diet and reproduction, said study lead author Alex Stiles, an assistant professor of environmental and evolutionary biology at the UVA College of Arts and Sciences.
The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Virginia Department of Health, the National Institutes of Health and the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
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