Human and octopus are similar: scientists have discovered a new common feature
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New research suggests octopus brains evolved to share a surprising trait with humans.
Cephalopods such as octopuses, squids and cuttlefish are highly intelligent animals with complex nervous systems. A team of scientists led by Nikolaus Rajewski from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, Germany, in a new study showed that their evolution is associated with a sharp expansion of the microRNA repertoire, writes ScienceAlert.
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There are many amazing creatures on our planet, but some of them are more idiosyncratic than others. This is especially true of octopuses, which are such unusual animals that some conspiracy theorists consider them to be alien creatures.
However, there is plenty of evidence that the evolution of octopuses is directly related to our planet, and scientists have recently found another one. We are talking about a feature of the brain of these cephalopods, which is common with the brain of humans and other vertebrates: a huge repertoire of microRNAs in their nervous tissue. According to Rajewski, this is exactly what connects a person with an octopus.
Scientists believe that octopuses are very smart, they have a fairly complex brain. Some scientists suggest that these animals can even dream. But unlike other intelligent animals, their nervous system is highly distributed throughout the body.
There is something else really strange about octopuses and other cephalopods. Their bodies can quickly edit their RNA sequences to adapt to their environment. This is not how adaptation usually works, it usually starts with DNA and these changes are passed on to RNA. This led scientists to wonder what other RNA secrets octopuses might be hiding.
Scientists sequenced the RNA of several dead octopuses and the result was a surprise. Octopuses did do a lot of RNA editing, Rajewski says, but not in areas they thought were of particular interest.
Scientists have found that octopuses have a lot of miRNAs. These are non-coding RNA molecules that actively participate in the regulation of gene expression by binding to larger RNA molecules to help cells fine-tune the proteins they make.
The fact that these miRNA families are preserved in octopuses suggests that they still play an important role in the biology of these cephalopods, although scientists do not yet know what this role is or in which cells miRNAs are involved.
According to scientists, this is the third largest distribution of miRNAs in the animal world and the largest in non-vertebrate animals. For example, oysters, which are also molluscs and shared common ancestors with octopuses, have only acquired five new miRNA families since they took a different evolutionary path. And octopuses have acquired as many as 90 families. Such a huge expansion in the number of miRNAs has occurred only in vertebrates, but on a much larger scale. For example, the human genome encodes about 2600 miRNA families.
This finding suggests that complex intelligence in octopuses may be related to this microRNA expansion, scientists say. Interestingly, this is not the only similarity between the brain of an octopus and the brain of vertebrates. Scientists have previously discovered that human and octopus brains contain large numbers of cells called transposons. Scientists now want to find out exactly what these miRNAs do, because they may be necessary for the emergence of a complex brain in animals.
Focus already wrote about a recent study by scientists that showed a striking similarity between visual system of octopuses and humans.