In DepthEvolution

Anemone shows mechanism of rapid evolution

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Science  15 Jan 2021:
Vol. 371, Issue 6526, pp. 221
DOI: 10.1126/science.371.6526.221

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Summary

Anyone who has been stung by a jellyfish might think they know more than enough about cnidocytes, the cells that deliver the sting. But one researcher has found that these cells have much more to tell, including insight into a simple evolutionary mechanism that, hundreds of millions of years ago, might have enabled jellyfish, sea anemones, corals, and their relatives—collectively known as cnidarians—to quickly adapt to new environments. The evolutionary developmental biologists used the gene-editing tool CRISPR to knock out the anemone's Sox2 gene, known to be important in neural development in many animals. As a result, stinger cells were deformed or missing. In the body wall, those cells were replaced by cells that shoot out sticky threads. This switch is a type of homeotic transformation and shows this molecular mechanism predates the split between bilaterians and cnidarians.

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