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Know Your Anemone

Insight into our sensory development from organisms like sea anemones

14 June 2022

Know Your Anemone

Waving around in coastal lagoons, starlet sea anemones (Nematostella vectensis) use tiny hair cells on their tentacles (highlighted here in green) to search for prey. A gene called pou-iv helps these hairs to develop. While we don’t have tentacles, researchers find a human version of pou-iv helps us grow other mechanosensory hair cells – in our ears. Cnidaria like anemones and animals like humans share a common ancestor and a legacy of nervous systems wired in similar ways. This fascinating link between ancient touch and human hearing may shed light on the evolution of many different species along the way, but also suggests N. vectensis, already a model organism for studying reproductive biology, may hold clues to human sensory development.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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