If you think about it, a mouse doesn’t really have much in common with a cartilaginous fish called little skate. One is small, with big ears and teeth, while the other breathes through gills and lives on the bottom of the ocean. One is usually regarded as a pest or as a pet, while the other is usually out in the wild, doing its own thing. However, according to a recent study which the journal Cell published, they do have ne thing in common. They can both walk. If we could understand the reason why, it could change our perspective on the evolution of walking in animals and humans.
Thanks to this genetic study which researchers from the New York University conducted, we now know what mice and little skates have in common. They can perform that right-left alternation pattern specific to locomotion which all four-legged animals also have. It seems that they both inherited these genes from a common ancestor that lived about 420 million years ago. This study wants to see how did motor behaviors evolve in species over time.
The little skate fish can offer precious clues regarding walking
According to Jeremy Dasen, the lead author of the study, he didn’t even know how a skate looked like in the wild. When he stumbled upon a YouTube video of a skate walking, he knew he had to find out how. For once, skates do not walk like humans because they don’t have legs. Instead, they use some fins called “crus”. So, when they need to move slowly or feed, they move their crus from left to right. It cam sometimes look like they have little legs.
They found a combination of genes inherited from long ago. This was shocking because it means that animals had the genes for walking even before they transitioned from sea to land. This discovery could provide an insight into how humans actually walk and where does this trait come from.
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