Researchers have always been fascinated by octopuses and wanted to find out more about them in order to know how to develop robots that are more flexible by analyzing their tentacles. Now they might actually be able to do this.
A research team led by Caroline Albertin from the Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago managed to sequence an octopus genome. This is the first time the history of science has witnessed this.
For the research the scientists used the species Octopus bimaculoides also known as two-spot California octopus. Albertin explained that except some significant features the octopus has a normal invertebrate genome but it is one which has been rearranged completely.
Co-author of the study professor of genetics and genomics Daniel Rokhsar at the University of California, Berkeley explained:
The octopus nervous system is organized in a totally different way from ours: The central brain surrounds the esophagus, which is typical of invertebrates, but it also has groups of neurons in the arms that can work relatively autonomously, plus huge optic lobes involved in vision. The sequencing was an opportunity to look at the genome and see what we can learn about the unique brain and morphology of the octopus.”
The researchers also discovered that the octopus genome contains 168 protocadherin genes which are the genes involved in the development of the nervous system and in the relations between neurons. This means that the octopus has double the number of protocadherin genes compared to mammals and moreover ten times the number of genes compared to other invertebrates.
Researchers believe that this discovery can help them know more details about certain gene families that could hold the key to how the brain of this intelligent animal functions. For example they could learn more about hox genes that are involved in controlling body plan development. These genes cluster together in the case of almost all animal species.
Further research could reveal more secrets about octopuses that were kept hidden from the researchers until now. According to neurobiologist Benny Hochner from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel the octopus has the most spectacular position in the Mollusca phylum illustrates evolution.
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