A team of scientists has combined embryological observations, genetic sequencing, and supercomputing to determine that a group of small disk-shaped animals that were once thought to represent a new class of animals are actually starfish that have lost the large star-shaped, adult body from their life cycle.
In a paper for the journal Systematic Biology (sysbio.oxfordjournals.org), Daniel Janies, Ph.D., a computational biologist in the department of Biomedical Informatics at The Ohio State University (OSU), leveraged computer systems at the Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC) to help support his contention that class-level status of Xyloplax does not reflect their evolutionary history.
“Although Xyloplax does not represent a new class, it an even more interesting animal now because it represents a rare example of how natural selection can shape the whole the life cycle,” he explained. “By omitting the large adult stage, Xylopax found how to make a living in the nooks and crannies of sunken timbers on the deep-sea floor.”
Janies collaborated on the paper with co-authors Janet R. Voight, Ph.D., in the department of Zoology at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, and Marymegan Daly, Ph.D., in the department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology at Ohio State.
Janies and his colleagues are examining echinoderms – starfish, sea urchins and their close relatives – as part of a study for the United States’ National Science Foundation’s Assembling the Tree of Life project. Several OSU scientists, including Janies and Daly, have won these grants, typically valued at $3 million over five years, to better understand the interrelationships of all forms of life (http://echinotol.org).
As tree-of-life analyses are computationally difficult, the current project is enabled by the computational muscle of OSC’s flagship system, the 9,500-node IBM 1350 Opteron “Glenn Cluster.”
“Last year, OSC deployed a $4 million expansion to the Glenn Cluster with a specific focus on supporting researchers, like Drs. Janies and Daly, in Ohio’s growing biosciences sector,” said Ashok Krishnamurthy, interim co-executive director of OSC. “The center provides a world-class computing environment for amazing bioscience research projects at places like OSU’s Department of Biomedical Informatics, the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Cleveland Clinic.”
The researchers examined both genetic and anatomical data to support their hypothesis, comparing Xyloplax with a total of 86 species representing major lineages of the five living classes of echinoderms (sea cucumbers, sea urchins, starfish, brittle stars, and sea lilies). For accurate comparisons, they applied several analytical methods to search for the shared mutations and changes in anatomy among the lineages.
The results describe the relationships in a phylogenetic tree representing the best-supported hypothesis on how Xyloplax evolved from other echinoderms. Phylogenetics is the study of the evolutionary relationships and changes among various biological species as they evolve from a common ancestor.
Prior to this study, molecular investigations of Xyloplax were limited, because specimens in two early collections in the 1980s were fixed in a solution which degrades DNA. Voight recently collected specimens of Xyloplax in the northeastern Pacific Ocean and carefully preserved them in ethanol. From these specimens, Daly was able to sequence several genes for Xyloplax. The newer specimens of Xyloplax also included several brooding females containing embryos, providing Janies with an unprecedented view of the creature’s early development.
Janies and colleagues theorize that Xyloplax differs from other starfish species because it is progenetic – that is, it has a rare, truncated life cycle that leaves the mature organism with features retained from its juvenile stages. For example, the arms of a starfish typically grow axially, like spokes of a wheel, as they develop from juveniles to adults, whereas Xyloplax grows along its circumference, like the wheel itself, and never develops arms.
“Irrespective of method or data sampling scheme, our results show that Xyloplax evolved from within starfish,” Janies concluded. “Xyloplax is just a little starfish that has a strange body plan and habitat, so strange that many could not recognize it as a starfish until we unlocked its genome and development.”The Systematic Biology article is available online at:
The Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC) addresses the rising computational demands of academic and industrial research communities by providing a robust shared infrastructure and proven expertise in advanced modeling, simulation and analysis. OSC empowers scientists with the vital resources essential to make extraordinary discoveries and innovations, partners with businesses and industry to leverage computational science as a competitive force in the global knowledge economy, and leads efforts to equip the workforce with the key technology skills required to secure 21st century jobs. For more, visit www.osc.edu.
Jamie Abel | EurekAlert!
During HIV infection, antibody can block B cells from fighting pathogens
14.08.2018 | NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
First study on physical properties of giant cancer cells may inform new treatments
14.08.2018 | Brown University
Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.
When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...
Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.
Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....
Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.
Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...
Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur
What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...
The quality of materials often depends on the manufacturing process. In casting and welding, for example, the rate at which melts solidify and the resulting microstructure of the alloy is important. With metallic foams as well, it depends on exactly how the foaming process takes place. To understand these processes fully requires fast sensing capability. The fastest 3D tomographic images to date have now been achieved at the BESSY II X-ray source operated by the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin.
Dr. Francisco Garcia-Moreno and his team have designed a turntable that rotates ultra-stably about its axis at a constant rotational speed. This really depends...
08.08.2018 | Event News
27.07.2018 | Event News
25.07.2018 | Event News
14.08.2018 | Information Technology
14.08.2018 | Life Sciences
14.08.2018 | Life Sciences