Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Skin Pigment in Fish and Humans

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Skin Pigment in Fish and Humans

Article excerpt

When humans began to migrate out of Africa about 100,000 years ago, their skin color gradually changed to adapt to their new environments. About 10,000 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age, marine ancestors of ocean-dwelling stickleback fish experienced dramatic changes in skin coloring as they colonized newly formed lakes and streams. New research shows that despite the vast evolutionary gulf between humans and the three-spined stickleback fish, the two species have adopted a common genetic strategy to acquire the skin pigmentation needed to help them thrive in their new environments.

To begin to understand the genetic basis of skin pigmentation changes in fish, a team of researchers, led by Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator David Kingsley, crossed stickleback species that had different pigmentation patterns. The researchers then used genetic markers and the recently completed sequence map of the fish's genome to search for the mechanism regulating stickleback pigmentation. They also looked for chromosome segments in the offspring that were always associated with inheritance of dark or light gills and skin.

Through detailed mapping of one such segment, researchers found a gene called Kitlg--short for Kit ligand--was associated with pigmentation inheritance. …

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