Octopus genetics, new research

This video says about itself:

Octopus genome: Suckers and smarts

12 August 2015

Researchers from the University of Chicago have sequenced the octopus genome, and they were surprised by what they saw; watch this Nature video to find out why.

From Wildlife Extra:

Scientists discover just how surprisingly complex is an octopus‘ genetic code

Scientists from the University of Chicago and the Japanese Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology have just sequenced the first genome of an octopus, and have found it to be almost as complicated as a human’s.

As technology to sequence DNA has become faster and cheaper, scientists all over the world are busy unravelling the genes of all kinds of animals.

Until now, though, no one had tackled an octopus, a surprisingly intelligent animal that can regrow lost arms, change the colour of their skin, unleash a cloud of concealing ink, and zip through the water using jet propulsion!

The Chicago cientists want to understand all of these talents at the level of DNA and when they discovered that a group in Japan had taken on the same challenge, they offered to join forces.

In the journal Nature, they report on the genetic code of Octopus bimaculoides — the California Two-spot Octopus, named because it has two blue spots behind its eyes.

“They’re not very large,” says Carrie Albertin, a biologist at the University of Chicago. “They can squish down to about the size of a tennis ball.

However, the octopus has a very large genome. “It’s nearly the size of the human genome,” says Albertin.

This study of octopus genes led to the revelation of some octopus secrets. For example, it had been thought that the octopus genome got so big because at some point the whole genome just copied itself.

“No,” says Albertin. “As we started to dig into the data, we were seeing more and more signs that there was no duplication.”

What’s more, they saw a massive expansion in a family of genes that’s involved in setting up brain circuits. These genes have been studied in mice and were previously thought to be numerous only in animals with backbones.

“We were really surprised as we were poking through the octopus genome to see that there were just 150 [or] 160 of these genes,” Albertin says. She says they’re completely absent in the invertebrates that scientists normally work on, like flies or nematode worms.

The researchers also took samples of tissue from a dozen different body parts, to see what specific genes were turned on in them. In the arm’s suckers, they saw activity in genes that are normally related to signalling between neurons in other animals — although the octopus had altered versions of these genes.

“So they might be doing something related to sucker function,” says Albertin. The suckers on octopus arms are chemosensory, she notes, so they can taste. “Maybe, possibly, these are involved in that.”

The goal of the research, Albertin says, is to take this whole genetic toolkit and figure out how it’s used to make an octopus. And she expects to get some help by comparing the octopus to other strange ocean creatures — such as the cuttlefish — because scientists are busy working on those genomes, too.

This octopus managed to escape to the ocean from a New Zealand aquarium. He must have been watching “Finding Nemo.”

5 thoughts on “Octopus genetics, new research

  1. Pingback: Colourful cephalopods, video | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Great tit genome sequenced | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Octopus, what is its plural? | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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