Washington, March 18 (ANI): Scientists have discovered that the elephant shark, a primitive deep-sea fish that belongs to the oldest living family of jawed vertebrates, can see color much like humans can.
This discovery may enhance scientists' understanding of how color vision evolved in early vertebrates over the last 450 million years of evolution.
"It was unexpected that a 'primitive' vertebrate like the elephant shark had the potential for color vision like humans," said Byrappa Venkatesh, a scientist at Singapore's Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB), who with David Hunt, from the Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London (UCL), headed the research team responsible for this surprising discovery.
"The discovery shows that it has acquired the traits for color vision during evolution in parallel with humans," he added.
The research team found that the elephant shark had three cone pigments for color vision and, like humans, it accomplished this through gene duplication.
Dr. Venkatesh said that the finding underscores the research utility of the elephant shark, which IMCB scientists proposed in 2005 as a valuable reference genome to understand the human genome.
In several scientific publications, Dr. Venkatesh's team has described research showing that the human DNA sequence was more similar to elephant shark than to any other fish.
According to Dr. Venkatesh, "We expect the sequencing of the whole genome of the elephant shark to be completed by early 2010, the availability of which will then enable scientists to explore the important functional elements in both the human and elephant shark genome that have remained unchanged during the last 450 million years of evolution." (ANI)