“Curiosity saved the cat”, a group of Swiss scientists discover a key gene in evolution

Science estimates that they could exist around 8.7 million species in the world, although it is estimated that even a fifth of them are not yet known. The differentiation from one species to another is essential when it comes to survivalsince they will be the organisms better adapted to their habitat will be the ones who move forward the easiest.

As reported by EuropaPress, a team of scientists of the University of Basel (Switzerland) believes it has discovered a new key to evolution of the species that they had long suspected could be an engine for the formation of the biodiversity.

Curiosity is better than strength

Professor Walter Salzburger is leading a team of researchers from the University of Basel (Switzerland), who has studied different species of the same type of fish in the second largest lake in the world with the aim of learning more about the role of behavioral differences in the adaptation to different ecological niches.

For nine months, they were in charge of recording the “exploratory behavior” of 57 different species of cichlid fish in it african lake Tanganyika, which is surrounded by the Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Burundi and Zambia. The first author, Dr. Carolin Sommer-Trembo, recorded on video approximately 700 different cichlids captured in the lake, in a new environment in the form of large experimental ponds. Once the experiment was over, the fish were released back into the wild.

In it video analysis, the scientist determined which areas of the experimental pond were explored by each fish in a period of 15 minutes. According to the leader of the research group, it was possible to observe “large differences in exploratory behavior between different species” of cichlids. They later verified how “these differences were also confirmed under conditions of laboratory“.

This large correlation between exploratory behavior (curiosity), he habitat and the body shape of the different fish confirmed some of the suspicions that scientists have had for a long time. As an example, species that live in areas near the coast have a larger body, and tend to be more open than other types of fish that live in open waters. Sommer-Trembo explained this fact by arguing that “this once again draws attention to animal behavior as a driving force behind key evolutionary processes“.

Relationship between genes and curiosity: being a “gossip” comes from birth

It would seem then that not only the habitat affects the evolution and conservation of the species, but his behavior and his curiosity They also play a key role in survival and advancement of the organisms.

The team of scientists allied with Dr. Milan Malinsky from the University of Bern (Switzerland), an expert in the field of genetics, to develop a novel method with which identify the genomes existing in cichlids, and thus compare the data of the different species.

A variant in the cichlid genome showed a nearly perfect correlation with their findings on exploratory behavior: species that had a “T” in this specific position on the DNA They were curious, while those with a “C” instead were less exploratory.

The researchers introduced genetic modifications in the corresponding region of the genome of the fish that had a “C”, and observed how their behavior radically changed: they became more curious.

Relying on tools based on artificial intelligence and information on the genetic variant, body structure and habitat, the scientific team was able to successfully predict the exploratory behavior of cichlid species that had not initially been examined for their exploratory behavior.

The curiosity gene: how it affects humans

According to this group from the University of Basel, the genetic variant that they found is very close to the “cacng5g gene”, which shows activity in the brain. This is the fish version of a gene that other vertebrates also have.

In its human variantthis section of DNA is usually associated with psychiatric illnesseshow can they be schizophrenia or disorders bipolarwhich are also believed to correlate with personality disorders.

Sommer-Trembo stated that they are interested in know “how personality traits can affect the mechanisms of biodiversity in the animal kingdom.” On the other hand, they believe that “we could also learn something about the fundamentals of our own personality“.

The advances produced in this branch of genetics could help explain and predictr trends in the behavior of human beings, and even detect greater propensities for certain types of mental illnesses and disorders.