Sequencing of five African fishes reveals diverse molecular mechanisms underlying evolution

Published: 2014-09-04


In an effort to understand the molecular basis of adaptation in vertebrates, researchers sequenced the genomes and transcriptomes of five species of African cichlid fishes. Researchers from SciLifeLab, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard uncovered a variety of features in the cichlid genomes that enabled the fishes to thrive in new habitats and ecological niches within the Great Lakes of East Africa. In addition to helping explain the complex genomic mechanisms that give rise to incredible diversity among cichlid fishes, the findings from these “natural mutants” shed new light on the molecular process of evolution in all vertebrate species.

The new study, done in collaboration with scientists at Eawag Swiss Federal Institute for Aquatic Sciences and Georgia Institute of Technology, in addition to more than 70 scientists from the international cichlid research community, appears in the September 3 advance online edition of Nature.

“Our study reveals a spectrum of methods that nature uses to allow organisms to adapt to different environments,” said co-senior author Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, Co-Director of SciLifeLab, scientific director of vertebrate genome biology at the Broad Institute and professor in comparative genomics at Uppsala University “These mechanisms are likely also at work in humans and other vertebrates, and by focusing on the remarkably diverse cichlid fishes, we were able to study this process on a broad scale for the first time.”

Read the full press release (in Swedish)