Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Genetic Oddity May Give Octopuses and Squids Their Smarts


It has long been known that Coleoid cephalopods are the most intelligent invertebrates. They are able to do things that most invertebrates were never thought to be able to do, such as solving puzzles and having complex forms of communicating. A recent study conducted on two octopuses, one squid, and one cuttlefish by scholars at Tel Aviv University show that their sophistication could be due to a quirk in how their genes work. Since they make extensive use of RNA editing, they have a significant diversity in their nervous system proteins compared to most animals.  As described in a separate article about types of RNA editing, RNA editing is an alteration of RNA sequences and structures by modification, deletion or by the insertion of nucleotides. Since this was occurring more so in colloids than other animals three separate doctors set out to quantify the disagreements of DNA and RNA sequences only to find that they have tens of thousands of recoding sites. When they looked at less sophisticated mollusks they found that the editing was occuring at a much smaller magnitude and could not be compared to the octopus, squid, or cuttlefish. They also compared the recoding sites between the three species and compared them, showing that they share tens of thousands of these sites compared to humans and mice who only share about 40 recoding sites even though we are hundreds of millions of years closer in evolution than octopuses and squids. This is important research because there is still so much unknown about the cuttlefish and some species of octopuses who are extremely complex compared to other invertebrates. This research provides more insight to the ongoing question of how they are so capable of the expressing the behaviors that they do. 

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