Wednesday, February 22, 2006

 

UF scientists reveal ancient origin of vertebrate skeleton

Unlovable lamprey holds clues to skeletal evolution

"University of Florida scientists have found that people have an ancient skeleton in their closets - a skeleton personified today by a jawless, eel-like fish.

It turns out lampreys, long thought to have taken a different evolutionary road than almost all other backboned animals, may not be so different after all, especially in terms of the genetics that govern their skeletal development, according to findings to be published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

UF scientists found the same essential protein that builds cartilage in this odd animal - it spends the first five years of its development in the larval stage before it finally morphs into a boneless fish - is none other than collagen. This vital structural molecule is found in all vertebrates with backbones and jaws, including humans.

'It was thought collagen was a relatively recent invention in vertebrate evolution that unites us with reptiles, amphibians, sharks and bony fishes, while the lamprey skeleton was based on quite different proteins...' " [Evolution News, PNAS]

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