(ORDO NEWS) — Analyzing the genomes of anurans, scientists concluded that the light stripe on the spine, which allows frogs and toads to mislead predators, appeared and disappeared many times in the process of evolution.
And for the appearance of such a pattern in some species, the ASIP gene, associated with the production of melanin in mammals, is responsible.
A group of researchers from New York University Abu Dhabi proposed a new concept for the evolution of color patterns on the skin of anurans (frogs and toads).
Many of these amphibians have a light stripe along their back, which, when viewed from above, creates an optical illusion that the animal is divided into two halves, which confuses predators.
Although this pattern is common among frogs around the world, very little has been known about its evolution or genetic origin until now.
Scientists conducted a large-scale comparative analysis of the genomes of 2,700 anuran species.
It turned out that the vertebral strip appeared in the process of evolution hundreds of times in different species, as a rule, living on the ground, since predators often attack them from above. In arboreal amphibians, this pattern, on the contrary, disappeared.
To better understand the genetic basis of this coloration, scientists studied the Ethiopian grass frog Ptychadena robeensis , which has a different vertebral stripe in different morphs – in different individuals it can be wide, thin or absent altogether.
The researchers found that the ASIP gene is associated with the stripe pattern in this species. Moreover, the higher the ASIP expression, the wider the band.
ASIP is a well-studied gene in mammals that is known to be associated with the production of the pigment melanin.
The fact that it is associated with color patterns in frogs opens up new possibilities for researching ambition patterns.
The scientists also compared the genomes of closely related frog species P. robeensis and found that although they have the same patterns, they do not have the genetic variation of P. robeensis.
Thus, the alleles identified in P. robeensis are recent. The researchers concluded that the vertebral stripe evolved rapidly in frogs, so they could quickly adapt to environmental changes.
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