Many of the endangered great white shark's proteins involved in an array of different functions- including metabolism- match humans more closely than they do zebrafish, the quintessential fish model, discover researchers.
The study by Michael Stanhope, professor of evolutionary genomics at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine, lays the foundation for genomic exploration of sharks and vastly expands genetic tools for their conservation, said Stanhope.
"We were very surprised to find, that for many categories of proteins, sharks share more similarities with humans than zebrafish," Stanhope said. "Although sharks and bony fishes are not closely related, they are nonetheless both fish while mammals have very different anatomies and physiologies. Nevertheless, our findings open the possibility that some aspects of white shark metabolism, as well as other aspects of its overall biochemistry, might be more similar to that of a mammal than to that of a bony fish."
Stanhope said that sharks have many fascinating characteristics. Some give live birth to fully formed young, while some lay eggs. In some species, the embryos eat the remaining eggs or even other embryos while still developing in the uterus. Some can dive very deep, others cannot.
Some stay local; others migrate across the entire ocean basins. White sharks dive deep, migrate very long distances and give live birth. We will use what we've learned in this species in a broader comparative study of genes involved in these diverse behaviors.
The study is published in BMC Genomics.