Scientists at the University of Florida have identified genetic activity in sharks required for the development of hands, feet, fingers and toes in limbed animals. The finding shows what was thought to be a relatively recent evolutionary innovation existed eons earlier than previously believed, potentially providing insight for scientists seeking ways to cure human birth defects.
Sharks (like this Great White off the coast of Guadalupe Island, Mexico) have the recipe for fingers in their genetic cookbook, researchers have found. (Credit: iStockphoto/Keith Flood)
When the first four-legged animals sprouted fingers and toes, they took an ancient genetic recipe and simply extended the cooking time, say University of Florida scientists writing in Wednesday's issue of the journal PLoS One.
Even sharks -- which have existed for more than half a billion years -- have the recipe for fingers in their genetic cookbook -- not to eat them, but to grow them.
While studying the mechanisms of development in shark embryos, UF scientists identified a spurt of genetic activity that is required for digit development in limbed animals.ScienceDaily: Conquest Of Land Began In Shark Genome