Scientists at the Genome Institute and elsewhere have decoded the genome of the platyfish, a cousin of the guppy and a popular choice for home aquariums.
Several attributes intuitively considered to be typical mammalian features, such as complex behavior, live birth and malignant disease such as cancer, also appeared several times independently in lower vertebrates. The genetic mechanisms underlying the evolution of these elaborate traits are poorly understood. The platyfish, X. maculatus, offers a unique model to better understand the molecular biology of such traits. We report here the sequencing of the platyfish genome. Integrating genome assembly with extensive genetic maps identified an unexpected evolutionary stability of chromosomes in fish, in contrast to in mammals. Genes associated with viviparity show signatures of positive selection, identifying new putative functional domains and rare cases of parallel evolution. We also find that genes implicated in cognition show an unexpectedly high rate of duplicate gene retention after the teleost genome duplication event, suggesting a hypothesis for the evolution of the behavioral complexity in fish, which exceeds that found in amphibians and reptiles.