The Sea Anemone, one of the most beautiful and unusual underwater creatures, just found out that its dating options have doubled. A study published in the journal Genome Research reports that its genetic code identifies the sea anemone, scientifically classified as an animal, as more like half plant and half animal.
Evolutionary and developmental biologist Ulrich Technau at the University of Vienna lead the research team. Looking primarily at gene expression (the process in which the information from a gene is used to generate a functional gene product, like proteins) they determined that transcription (the process of making an RNA copy of a gene sequence) in sea anemones is like that of animals, while translation (the process of translating the sequence of an RNA molecule to amino acids during protein synthesis) is more plant-like.
In simpler terms, this means cnidarians (sea anemones, jellyfish, corals and hydras) use a system similar to plants to control their animal genes. Where did this come from? The researchers explain it this way:
In summary, while the sea anemone's genome, gene repertoire and gene regulation on the DNA level is surprisingly similar to vertebrates, its post-transcriptional regulation is plant-like and probably dates back to the common ancestor of animals and plants.
This common ancestor of animals, plants and half-and-halves like the sea anemone dates back 600 million years. Technau says it was probably “a simple-looking pear or worm-shaped” creature with a basic nervous system, an oral opening and a gut.
While you ponder whether that reminds you of someone you know, let’s congratulate the sea anemone for being a far more complex and interesting creature than once thought.