Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Eyeless Australian fish have closest relatives in Madagascar

30.08.2012
Researchers are first to show ancient trans-oceanic relationship for vertebrate cave animals

A team of researchers from Louisiana State University and the American Museum of Natural History has discovered that two groups of blind cave fishes on opposite sides of the Indian Ocean are each other's closest relatives.


This composite image shows Typhleotris pauliani (top), a previously known species of Malagasy cave fish, and the newly discovered pigmented species (bottom).

Credit: AMNH/J. Sparks

Through comprehensive DNA analysis, the researchers determined that these eyeless fishes, one group from Madagascar and the other from similar subterranean habitats in Australia, descended from a common ancestor before being separated by continental drift nearly 100 million years ago.

Their study, which appears in the journal PLOS ONE this week, also identifies new species that add to existing biological evidence for the existence of Gondwana, a prehistoric supercontinent that was part of Pangaea and contained all of today's southern continents.

"This is the first time that a taxonomically robust study has shown that blind cave vertebrates on either side of an ocean are each other's closest relatives," said Prosanta Chakrabarty, an assistant professor and curator of fishes at Louisiana State University's Museum of Natural Science. "This is a great example of biology informing geology. Often, that's how things work. These animals have no eyes and live in isolated freshwater caves, so it is highly unlikely they could have crossed oceans to inhabit new environments."

The cave fishes, of the genus Typhleotris in Madagascar and Milyeringa in Australia, are small—less than 100 millimeters long—and usually lack pigment, a substance that gives an organism its color and also provides protection from the sun's ultraviolet radiation. These characteristics, coupled with a lack of eyes and enhanced sensory capabilities, allow cave fishes to survive in complete darkness. For this reason, the fishes have very restricted distributions within isolated limestone caves. It's also why the newfound genetic relationship between the trans-oceanic groups is an exciting geological find.

"The sister-group relationship between cavefishes from Madagascar and Australia is a remarkable example of Gondwanan vicariance—a geographical split dating back to the Late Cretaceous some 100 million years ago," said John Sparks, a curator in the Division of Vertebrate Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History. "The interesting thing about Madagascar's extant freshwater fish groups, with the exception of a single species, is that all exhibit relationship patterns that are in time with the Mesozoic breakup of Gondwana—some are related to groups in India/Sri Lanka, and others to groups in Australia. Only a single freshwater species has its closest relative in nearby Africa."

One of the new species discovered by the researchers, which will be named in a future publication, is a novelty among cave fishes because it is fully and darkly pigmented. The analysis the researchers conducted for this fish's tree of life shows that it evolved from a pigment-free ancestor, indicating that some subterranean forms can "reverse" themselves for this character.

"It is generally thought that cave organisms are unable to evolve to live in other environments," Sparks said. "Our results, and the fact that we have recently discovered new cave fish species in both Madagascar and Australia belonging to these genera, are intriguing from another perspective: they show that caves are not so-called 'evolutionary dead ends.'"

Funding for the research expedition was provided by the Constantine S. Niarchos Expedition Fund, established by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation to support the research of museum curators around the globe. This particular expedition turned into more of an adventure than the group was planning—in fact, one of the new species has been given a moniker that means "big sickness" in Malagasy because of the dangers the team incurred while searching for specimens in this dry, inhospitable region of Madagascar.

"Only two specimens of the new pigmented form were recovered from the first cave we searched in Madagascar, despite the fact that we spent hours in this sinkhole," said Chakrabarty. "Even the locals hadn't been inside of it before."

Because remote locales with caving opportunities exist all over the world, the researchers are eager to pursue other opportunities for discovery.

"Conducting this research really developed my love for caving," said Chakrabarty. "You don't always find something exciting. But, when you consider how isolated many of these caves are, especially in places like Madagascar, and how unaffected they have been by the passage of time, you know that the fish in there are going to tell a really good story."

Matthew P. Davis, now a postdoctoral fellow at The Field Museum, also contributed to this research.

Research paper: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0044083

Kendra Snyder | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.amnh.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Could this protein protect people against coronary artery disease?
17.11.2017 | University of North Carolina Health Care

nachricht Microbial resident enables beetles to feed on a leafy diet
17.11.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth

17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures

17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change

17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>