Genome sequence data warns researchers of unique jellyfish traits and venomous toxins

An image of a jellyfish warning to illustrate that they have venomous toxins according to genome sequence data
© iStock/PeteKaras

An article in the Open Access journal GigaScience presents the genome sequence data from different jellyfish species and describes their venomous toxins.

According to GigaScience, jellyfish kill more people each year than sharks, stingrays, and sea snakes combined. The new research identified the genome sequence data and provided the basis for exploring the evolution of the venomous toxins in these animals.

The corresponding author Joseph Ryan said: “With these new genomes, for the first time, we were able to compare gene content of all 5 classes of cnidarians (Anthozoa, Hydrozoa, Cubozoa, Staurozoa, Scyphozoa). This broad survey provides an important overview of genomic evolution in cnidarians.”

The jellyfish species studied were:

  • The deadly winged box jellyfish (Alatina alata);
  • The upside-down jellyfish which is anatomically intriguing (Cassiopea xamachana); and
  • The stalked jellyfish (Calvadosia cruxmelitensis)

Venomous toxins in jellyfish

Ryan commented: “Box jellyfish are among the most venomous animals on the planet and therefore their genomes are important resources for developing antivenoms as well as potential drugs. Our survey included a focused assessment of venom-related genes, providing insight into the evolution of cnidarian venom.”

How genome sequence data enables the classification of unique jellyfish traits

Ryan explains: “Gene loss is an important driver of evolutionary change. Having draft genomes allows for accurate inferences of gene loss and for understanding the phenotypic contribution of gene loss in these animals. Furthermore, these genomes provide information about the order of genes in the genome, which in some cases allow for independent verification of the identification of hard-to-classify genes.”

The applications of the research

According to the journal, this research will enable the exploration of the biological traits of the jellyfish, including:

•Differences in life cycles;
•Prey preferences;
•Metamorphoses;
•Swimming behaviours;
• Population blooms;
•Sexual behaviours;
•Environmental stress reactions;
•Cell type determination; and
•Stinging capsule development.

Source: GigaScience

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