• Question: What is your most unique feature and why has it happened (what genes cause it)?

    Asked by lgillan2 to Twisted-wing fly, Snake Pipefish, Scottish Crossbill, Orkney vole, Naval Shipworm, Common starfish, Brachiopod, Baltic clam, Abyssal Grenadier on 23 Nov 2017.
    • Photo: Common Starfish

      Common Starfish answered on 23 Nov 2017:

      One of the most unique features of starfish (and other echinoderms) is their pentaradial symmetry (5-fold symmetry). The ancestors of starfish (and other echinoderms) were bilaterally symmetrical and we don’t know why starfish (and other echinoderms) evolved to be pentaradially symmetrical.
      We also don’t know the genetic basis for the five-fold symmetry of starfish – by analysing the genome sequence of starfish (and other echinoderms) and comparing it with bilaterally symmetrical animals, it may be possible discover the key genes involved in conferring the pentaradial body plan of starfish.

    • Photo: Abyssal Grenadier

      Abyssal Grenadier answered on 23 Nov 2017:

      We have lots of cool unique features!

      We can survive under high water pressure. At the moment we know that we store a lot of an enzyme called TMAO which helps to keep our cells happy and stop them from being crushed by the pressure.

      We also live in the complete darkness, except bioluminescence which is light produced by some bacteria that live in some deep sea species, but we can still see these flashes of light.

      We can go veeeeeery long periods of time without eating so we have become very good at storing energy in our bodies. And we can also swim really slowly to help keep our energy stores high too.

      Because it is dark we can’t hunt for our food using our eyes so we also have a very strong sense of smell that allows us to find food.

      At the moment we don’t know all the genes that help us live in such an extreme environment! That’s why we would love to have our genome sequenced so we can start to understand how animals can live in such a difficult environment. Because we are closely related to cod it would be really cool to compare our genome to the genome of a cod to see what lets us live deeper! This could be really valuable in understand fish like cod as well as the abyssal grenadier.

    • Photo: Naval Shipworm

      Naval Shipworm answered on 23 Nov 2017:

      Hi! That is my ability to digest wood – cellulose is difficult to break down, and only a few animals can do this! How I do this is still a little bit of a mystery – I definitely get some help from bacteria, but a genome would allow us to figure this out much more accurately!

    • Photo: Twisted-wing Fly

      Twisted-wing Fly answered on 24 Nov 2017:

      It might be taken that since the host dies after I emerge it is a disadvantage to the host but studying in detail with a genome sequence how I maintain a host after I parasitize it in spite of me eating most of its insides will be advantage to the study parasitic immune resistance in humans. I think this is what is one of my unique features. I am not sure what genes cause it but a study of my genome will reveal this absolutely important feature. .

    • Photo: Snake Pipefish

      Snake Pipefish answered on 26 Nov 2017:

      After a male receives eggs from a female, the skin of its abdomen begins to change. First, the eggs (with the developing embryos) sink into the skin forming little cups where they “sit” protected from predators. Lots of blood vessels develop quickly embracing the embryos and these vessels allow the male to transfer nutrients to the embryos, and to remove waste products from the embryos’ metabolism. These functions are very similar to some of the functions of the uterus of mammals, and the reason why it is so interesting to study them. Scientists don’t yet know all of the genes that are involved in the male parental care of pipefishes, seahorses and seadragons, so I can’t fully answer your questions. However, there’s one species of seahorse and one species of pipefish that had their genomes sequenced recently, and these species both have more advanced types of brood pouch. So to have the snake pipefish genome sequenced would be really neat, as it would allow us to compare this more basic type of brood pouch with the other more complex ones and be able to see which genes are involved in parental care, which evolved first or later, and how they interact to make up this incredible type of parental care with all its associated functions.

    • Photo: Terebratulina Retusa

      Terebratulina Retusa answered on 29 Nov 2017:

      My unique feature is that I’m really boring!
      What do I mean?
      I’ve sat unchanged for 350 million years, my fossil record is a total snooze. Living Terebratulina retusa sitting in Loch Fyne today are pretty much indistinguishable from those 350 milion years ago.

      I’ve watched the dinosaurs come and go, but never done anything to change my appearance over all that time,
      The reason I should be sequenced is to find out how on earth I’ve managed that trick!

    • Photo: Scottish Crossbill

      Scottish Crossbill answered on 29 Nov 2017:

      A crossed bill! Which has evolved to allow crossbills to expertly prise apart pine cones to get at the seeds. We need to look at the genome to identify exactly what genes cause this strange bill shape, but we have a few clues from other bird species where we know what genes help in designing the shape of beaks.