What does a mouse have in common with a cartilaginous fish known as a little skate?According to the story, when the researchers removed the FoxP1 gene (short for Forkhead Box P1) from the skates, they couldn't walk. Further analysis revealed that the same thing happened to mice. They simply lost the ability to coordinate their legs. They couldn't walk. This research suggests that the gene that allows us to do the simple act of walking originated over 400 million years ago. Neat stuff.
At first glance, you might think not much. One’s fluffy, with big ears and whiskers; the other breathes with gills and ripples its way around the ocean. One is a lab animal or household pest; the other is most likely to be seen in the wild, or the bottom of a shallow pool at an aquarium. But it turns out these two vertebrates have something crucial in common: the ability to walk. And the reason why could change the way we think about the evolution of walking in land animals—including humans.
A new genetic study from scientists at New York University reveals something surprising: Like mice, little skates possess the genetic blueprint that allows for the right-left alternation pattern of locomotion that four-legged land animals use. Those genes were passed down from a common ancestor that lived 420 million years ago, long before the first vertebrates ever crawled from sea to shore.
Saturday, March 10, 2018
Human Evolution, Walking and FoxP1
The Smithsonian has an interesting article on hox genes and how a discovery may inform about how walking came about: