For the first time in the history of science researchers have managed to sequence the octopus genome and revealed how the animal’s brain functions. For this researchers used the species Octopus bimaculoides which is also known as California two-spot octopus. This species has become the first cephalopod species that was ever sequenced. The paper was published in the journal Nature.
The octopus genome was larger than any other invertebrate genomes that the researchers have ever sequenced such as oysters, snails or files. It was almost the size of the human genome. The researchers observed that over 3.500 genes that are specific to the octopus are active in the brain, sucker, retina and inn their ability to camouflage themselves.
The gene family responsible for neuronal development which was previously thought to be unique to all vertebrates seems to be extended in the case of the octopus genome. Co-author of the study neurobiology professor Clifton Ragsdale from the University of Chicago is of the opinion that these findings will enable scientists to discover more about cephalopods. According to Ragsdale with this discovery scientists could pose new questions which could not have been asked before regarding octopuses.
The octopus appears to be utterly different from all other animals, even other molluscs, with its eight prehensile arms, its large brain and its clever problem-solving capabilities. The late British zoologist Martin Wells said the octopus is an alien. In this sense, then, our paper describes the first sequenced genome from an alien.”
The scientists involved in the study say that one immediate application of this discovery could be to understand how these animals use their brain in order to control the tentacles. This type of information could be used to develop improved appendages for aquatic robots.
The researcher team approximates that the octopus genome has the size of 2.7 billion base-pairs. It has multiple long stretches with repeated sequences. Even though the octopus genome is smaller in size compared to the human genome its 33,000 protein-coding genes surpass the human genome.
The most significant expansion was noticed in the case of protocadherins which is a family of genes that deal with short-range interactions between neurons and neuronal development regulation. There are 168 protocadherin genes in the octopus genome. This means twice as many compared to mammals and ten times more compared to other invertebrates.
Image Source: species.divebums.com