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SciShots: Glowing muscles of the comb jelly

Biologists are studying the neurons and muscle cells of the ctenophore, a type of sea jelly that is the sister group to all other animals

05.27.2022

1 min read

In neuroscience, there’s an argument for studying the brains of animals that are as close to our own as possible — mammals or even other primates. But there’s also an argument to be made that studying nervous systems of animals that are wildly different from us can help scientists understand more about the basic principles of brains and brain evolution. Researchers at the University of Florida, through funding from an Allen Distinguished Investigator award, are studying the net-like nervous system of the ctenophore, a marine animal also known as the comb jelly and which was the first animal group to break off from all other modern animals in evolution. In this image, the comb jelly’s muscle cells are stained fluorescent green. University of Florida biologist Joseph Ryan, Ph.D., and his colleagues are mapping the neuromuscular circuits of the comb jelly to better understand the early evolution of both neurons and muscle cells. Rachel Tompa, Ph.D., Image by Kevin Pang, Ph.D. (currently senior editor at Genome Biology)

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About the author: Rachel Tompa

Rachel Tompa is a science and health writer and editor. A former molecular biologist, she’s been telling science stories since 2007 and has covered the gamut of science topics, including the microbiome, the human brain, pregnancy, evolution, science policy and infectious disease. During her tenure as Senior Editor at the Allen Institute, Rachel wrote stories and created podcast episodes covering all the Institute’s scientific divisions.

Get in touch at press@alleninstitute.org.