Nonhuman genetics. Genomic basis for the convergent evolution of electric organs

Science. 2014 Jun 27;344(6191):1522-5. doi: 10.1126/science.1254432.


Little is known about the genetic basis of convergent traits that originate repeatedly over broad taxonomic scales. The myogenic electric organ has evolved six times in fishes to produce electric fields used in communication, navigation, predation, or defense. We have examined the genomic basis of the convergent anatomical and physiological origins of these organs by assembling the genome of the electric eel (Electrophorus electricus) and sequencing electric organ and skeletal muscle transcriptomes from three lineages that have independently evolved electric organs. Our results indicate that, despite millions of years of evolution and large differences in the morphology of electric organ cells, independent lineages have leveraged similar transcription factors and developmental and cellular pathways in the evolution of electric organs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Catfishes / anatomy & histology
  • Catfishes / genetics
  • Catfishes / physiology
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Electric Fish / anatomy & histology
  • Electric Fish / genetics*
  • Electric Fish / physiology
  • Electric Organ / anatomy & histology
  • Electric Organ / cytology*
  • Electric Organ / physiology*
  • Electrophorus / anatomy & histology*
  • Electrophorus / genetics*
  • Electrophorus / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Muscle, Skeletal / cytology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Phylogeny
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcriptome


  • Transcription Factors