Wednesday, July 26, 2006

 

UF scientists discover evolutionary origin of fins, limbs

Gainesville, Florida: - Performance on the dance floor may not always show it, but people are rarely born with two left feet. We have genes that instruct our arms and legs to grow in the right places and point in the right directions. They also provide for the spaces between our fingers and toes and every other formative detail of our limbs.

Evolutionarily speaking, the genetic instructions used to construct and position our limbs were being perfected more than half a billion years ago in fishes, not along the sides of the body where the fins that preceded human arms and legs sprouted, but at the midline that runs along the backbone and belly.

This midline - think of the dorsal, tail and anal fins of a fish - is where the genetic template to produce fins originated, about 100 million years before paired fins evolved and about 200 million years before paired fins evolved into limbs, according to University of Florida genetics researchers. The findings, published online today in the journal Nature, also provide insight into the evolutionary history of genes involved in human birth defects. [evolution, origin]

[The Nature paper is currently available here but the link won't work for long because it's an advance publication - email if you have any problems.]

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