Evolutionary divergence of locomotion in two related vertebrate species - Sorbonne Université Access content directly
Journal Articles Cell Reports Year : 2022

Evolutionary divergence of locomotion in two related vertebrate species

Dimitrii Tanese
Georges Debregeas
Claire Wyart


Locomotion exists in diverse forms in nature and is adapted to the environmental constraints of each species1. However, little is known about how closely related species with similar neuronal circuitry can evolve different navigational strategies to explore their environments. We established a powerful approach in comparative neuroethology to investigate evolution of neuronal circuits in vertebrates by comparing divergent swimming pattern of two closely related larval fish species, Danionella translucida (DT) and Danio rerio or zebrafish (ZF)2,3. During swimming, we demonstrate that DT utilizes lower half tail-beat frequency and amplitude to generate a slower and continuous swimming pattern when compared to the burst-and-glide swimming pattern in ZF. We found a high degree of conservation in the brain anatomy between the two species. However, we revealed that the activity of a higher motor region, referred here as the Mesencephalic Locomotion Maintenance Neurons (MLMN) correlates with the duration of swim events and differs strikingly between DT and ZF. Using holographic stimulation, we show that the activation of the MLMN is sufficient to increase the frequency and duration of swim events in ZF. Moreover, we propose two characteristics, availability of dissolved oxygen and timing of swim bladder inflation, which drive the observed differences in the swim pattern. Our findings uncover the neuronal circuit substrate underlying the evolutionary divergence of navigational strategies and how they are adapted to their respective environmental constraints.
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Dates and versions

hal-03142570 , version 1 (16-02-2021)
hal-03142570 , version 2 (09-12-2022)




Gokul Rajan, Julie Lafaye, Martin Carbo-Tano, Karine Duroure, Giulia Faini, et al.. Evolutionary divergence of locomotion in two related vertebrate species. Cell Reports, 2022, 38 (13), pp.110585. ⟨10.1016/j.celrep.2022.110585⟩. ⟨hal-03142570v2⟩
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