Researchers have unveiled the genetic secrets of seahorses, and they manage to find answers regarding male pregnancy. On December 14, scientists have revealed that they have tried for the first time to sequence the genome of a species of seahorse, identifying the genetic cornerstone that accounts for some characteristics. This sea animal which lives in the coastal waters all over the world holds some peculiarities.
- Seahorses do not have teeth, feeding by using their snout to suck plankton.
- Males, not females, carry and give birth to abies.
- They use a little fin to steer their way in the water.
One of them regards reproduction, where males carry the babies and give birth. They tend to swim upright, have no teeth and they are equipped with tube-like snouts, also having horse-like heads. Their tails can grip seagrasses or corals to prevent being taken by currents. Seahorses have their bodies covered in body plates, but they do not have pelvic and tail fins.
The eyes of these sea animals work independently, being able to look both backward and forward at the same time. What is more, they can also camouflage themselves, by changing their color. Axel Meyer, an evolutionary biologist and genome researchers at Germany’s the University of Konstanz, has published a paper about seahorses in the Nature magazine. He argued that these creatures represent an example for the ebullience of evolution.
Byrappa Venkatesh, a molecular biologist at Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) claimed that the number of seahorses is slowly decreasing due to human harvesting and habitat demolition. The team of researchers has analyzed the Southeast Asian tiger tail seahorse’s genome. This species reaches about ten centimeters long, having a black-and-yellow tail.
The sea animal proved to have the most accelerated rate of molecular evolution among any fish whose genes have been examined. Males have a brood pouch. When they mate, females lay their eggs into the pouch of the male. The male seahorse is responsible of fertilizing those eggs, carrying them until they hatch. After the babies are fully developed, they are released into the sea.
Some genes which play the role of tooth production in humans and other species have been mutated in seahorses, losing their functionality. They do not have teeth, feeding with plankton and other similar small prey which they suck through their snout. Another significant gene which helps in the development of legs in humans and pelvic fins in fish was absent from the genetic structure of the seahorses. Thus, they can swim by using a little fin located on their back and some other pectoral fins placed on the back of their heads.
Image courtesy of: wikipedia