by | Jul 11, 2022 | 0 comments

Going deep on the mitochondrial genome

You might know that many animals in the deep sea evolved from shallow water ancestors, but did you ever wonder what happens to their genes when they make that evolutionary trip? Researchers at OGL asked that question by looking at the mitochondria of two families of marine clams: one that stayed in shallow water, and a closely related sister family that, over many millions of years, migrated into the deep.

The similarities and differences between species of Teredinidae and Xylophagaidae, two sister families of marine clams.

Mitochondria are tiny bean-shaped structures found in cells of all animals. They are known as the powerhouse of the cell because they help convert food into the fuel (ATP) that cells need to survive. Surprisingly, the mitochondria have their own tiny genomes, separate from that of the rest of the cell. The small size of mitochondrial genomes makes them a quick read, and that makes them attractive for scientists to study.

The question the researchers asked was: How did their mitochondrial genes change when these clams moved from the warm, food-rich, shallow ocean, to the cold, food-poor desert of the deep sea? The answer was unexpected. The genes in the deep-sea family became shuffled, with different gene orders in different species, but the rate at which the individual genes evolved was slow. In the shallow water family, the genes evolved quickly, but they all stayed in the same order. In the future, the researchers hope to discover why these two families followed such different evolutionary paths and what this might tell us about life in the deep sea.

Read more about this fascinating work here.

Interested in helping OGL dive into more marine genomes? Support OGL here.


New Tools for Teachers

Science teachers are awesome! Middle and high school teachers are on the front lines of science education, teaching a generation that not only can save our planet, but must. To do our small part to help these heroes, Ocean Genome Legacy and the Outreach Program at...

Mystery Fish Identified!

On a nighttime dive on a spectacular shallow reef in Cozumel, Mexico, underwater photographer Robert Stansfield spied something in the inky darkness he had never seen before: a tiny, transparent fish with bright markings, devilish eyes, and a gaping mouth...

Spooky Creatures at OGL!

It’s that time of year again, when werewolves, goblins, and vampires skulk in the shadows. This Halloween, we present some of the spookiest marine creatures lurking in the OGL collection! Barreleye (Macropinna microstoma) The barreleye must have a lot of role models,...

OGL in the New York Times

These are difficult times, and I hope that you and your loved ones are healthy and protecting yourselves. During this unprecedented moment in our lives, the news can be hard to read, and so it is great to share a story with a little more uplifting content. One of...