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 Fingerprint' technique spots frog populations at risk from pollution
27.03.2017 | Lancaster University

nachricht Parallel computation provides deeper insight into brain function
27.03.2017 | Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Northern oceans pumped CO2 into the atmosphere

27.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

Fingerprint' technique spots frog populations at risk from pollution

27.03.2017 | Life Sciences

Big data approach to predict protein structure

27.03.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>