APR 07, 2017 6:49 AM PDT

Octopuses Frequently Edit Their Own Genes

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Cephalopods, the branch of animals dealing primarily with octopuses and squids, are much more unique than previously thought.

While they’ve long been understood to have a far-reaching sense of intelligence, no one would have guessed that they had the ability to influence their own genes. On the other hand, that’s exactly what researchers found out before publishing a study in the journal Cell.

Octopuses are just one of the many kinds of animals that belong to the cephalopod group.

Image Credit: Glucosala/Pixabay

Apparently, cephalopods are capable of interfering with the process where DNA gets transcribed into RNA. This little act of interference and re-coding causes ribosomes to interpret the modified RNA the way they would normally interpret non-modified RNA, and hence, the creature manages to influence its own protein production.

Interestingly, this gene-editing ability leads to quite a few genetic variations in the cephalopod community, as even the slightest change in the creature’s genetics can set off a domino effect that triggers major changes.

For example, it gives the creature the ability to be as versatile as it needs to be for the world’s ever-changing environment; this might include adjusting its color to better avoid predators or hide from prey, changing behavioral tactics to improve intelligence and fit in with other creatures, increasing their tolerances for different temperatures, and other changes.

The process is not yet fully understood, but because there is so much interest in how cephalopods are able to go about this feat, the research continues…

“When do they turn it on, and under what environmental influences? It could be something as simple as temperature changes or as complicated as experience, a form of memory,” study lead author Joshua Rosenthal said.

Cephalopods certainly aren’t the only creatures capable of carrying out this activity, but they do it in exponentially higher frequencies than other known animals that undertake this behavior. Even humans have this ability, but it’s extremely rare that we manage to go about it.

Related: What you didn't know about octopi

For what it’s worth however, this gene re-coding superpower comes at a cost. Cephalopods don’t exhibit that much natural evolution as a result of their transcriptome plasticity. Instead, the latter takes the higher priority.

It should be interesting to see what we can learn about cephalopods, which appear to be far more misunderstood than originally thought. Perhaps the research will help us further our own genetic research.

Source: New Scientist

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
DEC 13, 2019
Health & Medicine
DEC 13, 2019
Mandatory Warning Labels for California Cannabis Products, Unsafe for Mothers-to-be
As the first state to legalize medical marijuana, California is to date one of the largest cannabis markets in the United States. A nine-member panel of sc...
DEC 19, 2019
Earth & The Environment
DEC 19, 2019
Tiny Fossils Reveal California's Ocean Acidification History
A century’s worth of microscopic shells has revealed that ocean acidification is occurring in California waters at twice the rate of the global avera...
DEC 23, 2019
Plants & Animals
DEC 23, 2019
The Captivating Mating Process of a Jumping Spider
When you’re a male jumping spider and you fancy finding a female to mate with, you might try your hand – or in this case paddle – at impr...
JAN 12, 2020
Plants & Animals
JAN 12, 2020
This is Why You Shouldn't Mess With Beached Whales
When large whales die, one of two things can happen: 1) their bodies can sink to the bottom of the ocean and go on to support smaller life forms; or 2) the...
JAN 19, 2020
Earth & The Environment
JAN 19, 2020
Why aren't we meeting our forest restoration goals?
A new paper published recently in Conservation Letters hopes to encourage more support for countries aiming to meet their ambitious forest restoration goal...
FEB 07, 2020
Health & Medicine
FEB 07, 2020
Could False Cannabis Information Online Be Harmful To Public Health?
Under federal law, cannabis is illegal and considered a class 1 drug, meaning that it is perceived to have no medical value, with a high potential for user...
Loading Comments...