Researchers Map Centipede Genome For The First Time, Show How Life Evolved on Earth
Researchers have completed the first ever genome sequence of a blind myriapod, Strigamia maritima - one of a group of venomous centipedes that are unusual in the way in which they care for their eggs.
The findings provide new insights into the biological evolution of Strigamia maritima and its unique absence of vision and circadian rhythm.
"This is the first myriapod and the last of the four classes of arthropods to have its genome sequenced," said Dr. Stephen Richards, assistant professor in the Human Genome Sequencing Center at Baylor, in a press release. "Arthropods are particularly interesting for scientific study because they diverged into more species than any other animal group as they adapted in many ways to conquer the planet. The genome of the myriapod in comparison with previously completed genomes of the other arthropod classes gives us an important view of the evolutionary changes of these exciting species."
Findings of the study further suggest that the centipede group lost its eyes at least 200 million years ago. Researchers did not find any vision-specific genes or genes related to the circadian (or internal) clock in the genome.
"This teaches us about how evolution works and how things change, how things can be conserved and others lost," said Dr. Ariel Chipman, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel. "In general, this just gives us a better understanding of biology and how it works over long periods of time."
"The arthropods have been around for over 500 million years and the relationship between the different groups and early evolution of the species is not really well understood. We have good sampling of insects but this is the first time a centipede, one of the more simple arthropods - simple in terms of body plan, no wings, simple repetitive segments, etc. - has been sequenced. This is a more conservative genome, not necessarily ancient or primitive, but one that has retained ancient features more than other groups," added Dr. Chipman.
Findings of the study have been published in the journal PLOS Biology.