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Mol Ecol 2023 Jul 01;3213:3541-3556. doi: 10.1111/mec.16947.
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Captivity induces a sweeping and sustained genomic response in a starfish.

Morin M , Jönsson M , Wang CK , Craik DJ , Degnan SM , Degnan BM .

Marine animals in the wild are often difficult to access, so they are studied in captivity. However, the implicit assumption that physiological processes of animals in artificial environments are not different from those in the wild has rarely been tested. Here, we investigate the extent to which an animal is impacted by captivity by comparing global gene expression in wild and captive crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS). In a preliminary analysis, we compared transcriptomes of three external tissues obtained from multiple wild COTS with a single captive COTS maintained in aquaria for at least 1 week. On average, an astonishingly large 24% of the coding sequences in the genome were differentially expressed. This led us to conduct a replicated experiment to test more comprehensively the impact of captivity on gene expression. Specifically, a comparison of 13 wild with 8 captive COTS coelomocyte transcriptomes revealed significant differences in the expression of 20% of coding sequences. Coelomocyte transcriptomes in captive COTS remain different from those in wild COTS for more than 30 days and show no indication of reverting back to a wild state (i.e. no evidence of acclimation). Genes upregulated in captivity include those involved in oxidative stress and energy metabolism, whereas genes downregulated are involved in cell signalling. These changes in gene expression indicate that being translocated and maintained in captivity has a marked impact on the physiology and health of these echinoderms. This study suggests that caution should be exercised when extrapolating results from captive aquatic invertebrates to their wild counterparts.

PubMed ID: 37009965
Article link: Mol Ecol