Researchers have recently found that in a specific species of whales, right whales, that there is a new gene mutation causing more death for the endangered species. The mutation occurs in their eyes, making them unable to see bright lights or objects, unfortunately objects such as different types of fishing gear. (Fishing gear is a great cause of death for the whales and other sea life) Although, this is unfortunate for the whales, it is helping scientists to understand more about the eye. According to the research, the whales are missing a "normal light-detecting protein", which means completely missing a cone needed for the eyes to see brighter colors. This is the first mutation of its kind found in any mammals. (More information about the eye).
Researchers are finding that whales only possess one gene for this specific cone. Although the cone cell is missing the rods are still present, helping the whales and exemplifying their ability to see dim-light. From this information, scientists are learning new things about the eye that have yet to be discovered. I find it really amazing how the whale's body recognizes that they are missing a certain part of their eye, so the part that is left begins to be exemplified and work better. Many whales go very deep in the ocean, where light disappears quickly, this can be very beneficial when swimming throughout the ocean, except when coming to the top of the water for air. The longest a whale can hold its breath is 90 minutes, but it usually less than that. Hopefully, for the whales they will not be swimming into any fishing equipment. I hope that the whales get another mutation that can only help their eyes and prevent them from becoming extinct.
It would be so interesting to look into when this mutation in the whales began and to discover if this mutation originally helped the species thrive. If these whales acquire another mutation that corrects the issues in their cone cell it would be such an interesting evolutionary story.ReplyDelete
I wonder what caused this mutation to become prominent in the whales in the first place. If it causes whales possessing the mutation to have a greater chance of dying then one would think the trait would have a lower inheritance rate due to natural selection, and rarely get passed on.ReplyDelete