The genome of a slowly evolving fish, the spotted gar, is so much like both zebrafish and humans that it can be used as a bridge species that could open a pathway to important advancements in biomedical research focused on human diseases.
That is the conclusion of a comprehensive and international research effort, led by the University of Oregon in collaboration with the Broad Institute at MIT and Harvard University. Researchers sequenced the genome of the gar (Lepisosteus oculatus) – an ancient fish with hard diamond-shaped scales and a long mouth filled with needle-like teeth. Their work is detailed in a paper published online in the journal Nature Genetics.
As the data were analyzed, researchers realized the spotted gar’s genome is an evolutionary repository of ancient genetic materials, said UO biologist John H. Postlethwait. “Many genes found in human but not in zebrafish, a favorite for biomedical research, are present in gar, and, likewise, genes present in zebrafish but not in humans are also in gar,” he said. “This relic of a fish retains ancestral characteristics lost by other fishes or humans.
In addition, numerous evolutionary conserved, non-coding genetic elements are found in gar that are often tied to human…