Male zebrafish sex tool stops fin regeneration

SEX OVER SURVIVAL Male zebrafish have spiked structures on their pectoral fins (shown), which help them have sex, and also make a protein that blocks fin-tissue regeneration after injury or amputation.

Kang et al/Developmental Cell 2013

Tiny, spiked structures on the pectoral fins of male zebrafish help them have sex. However, the structures seem to hinder the fish’s ability to regenerate their fins.

The structures, called tubercles, help males grasp females when mating, and they make a protein that prevents fin regeneration, scientists report October 14 in Developmental Cell.

The authors argue that males with more sexual ornaments, and consequently better chances of successful breeding but not fin regeneration, contribute to the gene pool more often and may be driving future generations to trade the old trait of regeneration for new tools that improve sexual success.

Finding the protein and pathway that block tissue regeneration in male zebrafish may also help scientists understand what prevents other animals, including humans, from regrowing body their own parts, the authors suggest.

NO REGROWTH Female zebrafish regrow their pectoral fins after amputation (left). But a high percentage of male zebrafish have defective regeneration (right). Kang et al/Developmental Cell 2013

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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