It turns out that creepy monsters are our relatives: the brains of lampreys and humans have a lot in common

It turns out that creepy underwater inhabitants, reminiscent of strange aliens, as if they emerged from the most nightmarish depths, are closer to humans than we thought.

Many of us have distant relatives that we do not want to see or communicate with, and when it comes to our ancestors and species that are genetically close to us, the temptation to avoid such meetings can increase significantly. The sea lamprey, a jawless fish that looks more like a nightmare than something close to us, has become such a relative of ours and has recently been added to the list of nearby species. But according to ScienceDaily, recent research shows we have much more in common than you might think.

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The authors of the study, led by Robb Krumlauf and his team, delved into the ancient world of vertebrates to understand how our brains evolved. Although sea lampreys look scary, they are ideal for such research because they represent a branch of the vertebrate family tree that followed a different evolutionary path about 500 million years ago.

What the researchers found is both surprising and frightening. They found that the hindbrain, which is responsible for controlling important functions such as blood pressure and heart rate, is built using very similar molecular and genetic tools in both sea lampreys and humans. This discovery shows that the circuits of this critical brain region have been preserved across half a billion years of evolution.

The key element in this ancient scheme of nature is a molecule called retinoic acid, better known to most of us as vitamin A. This molecule turned out to be the chief conductor, ordering the entire genetic orchestra to play the right notes. The hindbrain is found not only in humans and other jawed vertebrates, but also in jawless sea lampreys. This casts doubt on previous assumptions that sea lampreys, with their unique anatomy, may have a completely different hindbrain developmental system, leading us to believe that it is much more similar to ours than previously thought, the study says.

If hindbrain formation is a common feature among all vertebrates, then scientists now face the challenge of unraveling the mystery of how such a wide range of brain complexities and functions arise from this common basis across species.

Sea lampreys seem to be harbingers of our shared evolutionary journey, reminding us that even the most seemingly alien and terrifying creatures can hold clues to our own biology and share with us a history that extends down to the molecular level.

Previously Focus wrote about the causes of shark attacks on people. Shark researcher Gavin Naylor of the University of Florida explained that sometimes noisy humans make calls similar to those coming from schools of fish.

Moreover Focus Sharks are stranding en masse off Canadian shores, he wrote, but according to scientists, that’s a good thing. In the past year alone, the number of the ocean’s most fearsome predators washing up on Canadian shores has increased significantly. But researchers don’t see this as a problem.

Source: Focus

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