Eye Regression in Cave Animals Essay

Eye Regression in Cave Animals Essay

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Based on experimental evidence from the Astyanax mexicanus investigation, it can be argued that eye regeneration in the dark cave environment is due to adaptive evolution. Experiments that have been carried out on Astyanax cavefish do not seem to favor the neutral mutation theory. The results from these experiments have shown that several eye genes are pleiotropic and regulatory since they have many functions in development in addition to their eye forming roles. This means that the genes do not experience the neutral decay process. Even critical eye structural genes such as retinal opsin, which functions at the base of gene cascades, are still expressed during the eye development of cavefish. This is why the adaptation hypothesis based on pleiotropy is the most credible explanation behind the loss of eyes in cave-adapted animals.
It is now a fact that most animal species that live in caves tend to lose their vision. This trait has been observed for several centuries. For instance, in 1768, Laurenti found the first described cave-adapted animal, Proteus anguinus, which is a salamander species (Juan, Guzik, Jaume, & Cooper, 2010). It was blind and according to most tales, it was thought to be the larval phase of a dragon. This amphibian’s preliminary eye development is normal. However, development of its eyes slows down with time; the lens undergoes rigorous lytic processes and the cornea involutes, making the eye to be strongly sunken and reduced.
Amblyopsis spelaea, the first cavefish species to be described in 1842, was also found to be blind (Juan, Guzik, Jaume, & Cooper, 2010). Today, biologists are carrying out numerous investigations on the Astyanax cavefish species, which have eye degenerative traits. The degree of functi...


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...’s ‘wrecks of ancient life’ in the molecular era. Molecular Ecology, 19, 3865-3880.
Meng, F., Braasch, I., Phillips, J. B., Lin, X., Titus, T., Zhang, C., & Postlethwait, J. H. (2013). Evolution of the eye transcriptome under constant darkness in Sinocyclocheilus cavefish. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 10. Retrieved from http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/05/21/molbev.mst079.full
Rétaux, S., & Casane, D. (2013). Evolution of eye development in the darkness of caves: adaptation, drift, or both. Evo Devo. Retrieved from http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/2041-9139-4-26.pdf
Yoshizawa, M., Yamamoto, Y., O'Quin, K. E., & Jeffery, W. R. (2012). Evolution of an adaptive behavior and its sensory receptors promotes eye regression in blind cavefish. BMC Biology, 10. Retrieved from http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/10/108

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