News FocusEvolutionary Biology

Gaining New Insight Into the Molecular Basis of Evolution

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Science  30 Jul 1999:
Vol. 285, Issue 5428, pp. 654-655
DOI: 10.1126/science.285.5428.654

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By tying mutations in the sequences of visual proteins to altered function, researchers are getting a handle on how those changes may influence fitness. At a meeting last month of the American Genetic Association, researchers described how they pinpointed the changes in visual pigment genes that enabled the coelacanth, a fish so ancient it's called a "living fossil," to see in the dim light of the deep ocean, 200 meters below sea level. And in an upcoming report in Genetics, the group describes changes in similar genes from a wide range of other animals, which may have enabled them to adapt to their particular habitats. The work may have applications beyond evolutionary biology, in the practical realm of biotechnology and protein engineering.