Subscribe
First Look

Scientists sequence octopus genome: A better understanding of cephalopods?

Researchers have sequenced an octopus genome for the first time, paving the way for a better understanding of octopuses and similar creatures. 

  • close
    Researchers from UC Berkeley, the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University and the University of Chicago have sequenced and annotated the first cephalopod genome, the California two-spot octopus. Here, an octopus (Octopus bimaculoides) displays its blue eyespot and its long, flexible, sucker-laden arms.
    Courtesy of Judit Pungor
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption
of

What makes an octopus an octopus? 

Researchers are now much closer to answering that question, thanks to an international team of scientists that has sequenced the genome of the common California two-spot octopus (also known as Octopus bimaculoides).  

In their research, which will be published in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature, the scientists found significant differences between the genomes of the octopus and other invertebrates. These differences will help researchers better understand the unique traits of octopuses, such as their ability to change skin color and texture and the way an octopus’s distributed brain allows its eight arms to move independently of one another.

"The octopus genome makes studies of cephalopod traits much more tractable, and now represents an important point on the tree of life for comparative evolutionary studies," said Clifton Ragsdale, a neurobiology professor at the University of Chicago who co-led the study, in a statement. “It is an incredible resource that opens up new questions that could not have been asked before about these remarkable animals.”

Understanding the way an octopus’s brain interacts with its legs could help engineers design more effective arms for underwater robots, researchers say. Additionally, the genome could shed light on the genetic basis for other octopus traits, such as their ability to regenerate their limbs, a propulsion system that allows them to jet around underwater, and the suckers on their tentacles, which can feel and grasp and sense chemicals in the water. 

"This will guide studies that until right now, today, we might not have thought were possible," Christine Huffard of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, who was not involved in the research, told the Washington Post. "Next month or a year from now we’ll hopefully be doing much more complex behavioral studies because of it."

The genome is also expected to help with studies of other species belonging to the cephalopod class, such as squid, cuttlefish, and nautilus. Cephalopods have existed in various forms as ocean predators for around 400 million years, and were the first intelligent beings on the planet, according to Nobel laureate Sydney Brenner, who initiated the project.

"The reason for looking broadly at several different types of cephalopods is to see what is conserved among them," he said. "What is similar among all cephalopods is probably important to being a cephalopod."

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome
 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
FREE Newsletters
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK