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Great white sharks and tuna share super predator genes

"These are simple traits, and ones that have evolved twice," researcher Vincent Savolainen said.

By
Brooks Hays
Both tuna and great white sharks share similar metabolism genes -- genes that scientists say account for their super predator powers. Photo by UPI Photo/Joe Marino
Both tuna and great white sharks share similar metabolism genes -- genes that scientists say account for their super predator powers. Photo by UPI Photo/Joe Marino | License Photo

LONDON, Sept. 23 (UPI) -- A high metabolism and an impressive swimming pace are two reasons why tuna and great white sharks are such effective predators. New research suggests the two super-predator traits shared by the fish are derived from a similar set of genes.

Genomic analysis conducted by scientists at Imperial College London revealed a set of metabolic genes preferentially passed down among both tuna species and the lamnid group of sharks. The researchers also identified an identical metabolic gene in both fish groups linked with the ability to generate intense bursts of energy.

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The attack process of the two fish groups includes a final thrust of acceleration as they approach their prey.

"Lamnid sharks and tuna both have stiff bodies and tails that allow them to swim in bursts. They can also keep their temperature up in colder waters," ICL researcher Vincent Savolainen explained in a news release. "Both of these things make them more effective predators, allowing them to snatch prey in usually inhospitable waters."

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"These are simple traits, and ones that have evolved twice," Savolainen added. "They give us a great point to start really examining the underlying genetics and understanding the relationship to physical traits."

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Not all genes are expressed the same way in all species, and the task of linking genes to specific physiological traits is complex. But analysis of tuna and lamnid shark muscles in the lab suggests both are selecting the same genes for the same reasons. Mackerel, used as a control, did not select for the same metabolism genes.

Researchers published this findings in the journal Genome Biology and Evolution.

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