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Octopus and human brains share the same ‘jumping genes,’ new study reveals 

Octopus and humans share genetic traits: Study reveals how both brains share the same ‘jumping genes’

  • Two species of octopus and humans share similar ‘jumping genes’
  • Scientists think these are related to things like learning and memory
  • The discovery will help us better understand how intelligence evolved
  • One scientist called it a “fascinating example of convergent evolution,” in which the same molecular process develops independently, in response to similar needs, in two genetically distant species.

Evolutionary biology tells us that humans share a range of different traits with many other species on Earth.

New research reveals that the human brain and octopus brain both share the same ‘jumping genes’.

More than 45% of the human genome is composed of sequences called transposons. These are these ‘jumping genes’ that can ‘move’ from one point in the genome to another by sliding or duplicating.

The research shows that the same ‘jumping genes’ are active in both the human brain and the brains of two species, Octopus vulgaris, the common octopus, and Octopus bimaculoides, the California octopus.

A new study reveals some genetic overlap between the brains of humans and octopuses.

A new study reveals some genetic overlap between the brains of humans and octopuses. “The octopus brain is functionally analogous in many of its features to those of mammals,” said Graziano Fiorito, director of the Department of Biology and Evolution of Marine Organisms at Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn.

The most relevant of these are associated with the LINE (Long Interspersed Nuclear Elements) family, found in one hundred copies of the human genome.

Many scientists believe that the LINE transposons are associated with learning, memory and other cognitive skills.

“The octopus brain is functionally analogous in many of its features to those of mammals,” said Graziano Fiorito, director of the Department of Biology and Evolution of Marine Organisms at Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn. “Also for this reason, the identified LINE element represents a very interesting candidate to study to improve our understanding of the evolution of intelligence.”

One of the scientists said they “literally jumped on the chair” when they saw a signal of activity in the octopus’ vertical lobe, a brain structure that’s the seat of learning and cognitive skills — like the hippocampus for humans. is.

Octopus and human brains share the same 'jumping genes'.  Above, the identification of LINE retrotransposons and long noncoding RNAs is seen in the octopus brain.

Octopus and human brains share the same ‘jumping genes’. Above, the identification of LINE retrotransposons and long noncoding RNAs is seen in the octopus brain.

“The discovery of an element of the LINE family, active in the brains of the two octopus species, is very important because it supports the idea that these elements have a specific function,” explains Remo Sanges, director of the Computational Genomics Laboratory. , from. at SISSA, who started working on this project when he was a researcher at Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn in Naples.

This human-octopus similarity showing the activity of a LINE element in the seat of cognitive faculties can be explained as a fascinating example of convergent evolution, a phenomenon for which, in two genetically distant species, the same molecular process occurs. developed independently, in response to similar needs,” explained Giuseppe Petrosino of Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohm and Stefanol Gustincich of Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia.

OCTOPUS DEFENSE MECHANISMS

One of the most effective ways octopuses avoid predation is by camouflage with their environment.

They have special pigment cells that allow them to determine the color of their skin, just like chameleons.

In addition to color change, they can manipulate the texture of their skin to blend in with the terrain.

In addition to camouflage, they can escape predators by using a ‘jet propulsion’ escape method, where they shoot water quickly to propel them quickly through the water.

The jet of water from the siphon is often accompanied by the release of ink to confuse and evade potential enemies.

The suckers on the tentacles of the eight-legged beasts are extremely powerful and are used to drag prey to a sharp bill.

In addition to protecting against other animals, it was recently discovered that octopuses can detect the ultrasonic waves that prevent a volcanic eruption or earthquake, giving them plenty of time to escape.

The discovery, part of an international collaboration between more than 20 researchers, was made possible thanks to new sequencing techniques, which were used to analyze the molecular makeup of the genes active in the octopus’ nervous system.

The study, published in BMC Biologywas conducted by an international team of more than twenty researchers from all over the world.

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