What Sea Slugs Taught Us About Our Brain

When Leonid Moroz, a gregarious Russian-born neuroscientist and geneticist at the University of Florida, began studying ctenophores nearly a decade ago, he had a fairly simple goal in mind. He wanted to determine exactly where the blobby marine creatures—which are more commonly known as comb jellies because of the comb-like projections they use to swim—belonged on the tree of life.

After spending several years sequencing ctenophores, Moroz and his team discovered that the animals were missing many of the genes found in the nervous system of other animals thought to be closely related, such as coral and actual jellyfish. That meant that they’d branched off on their own up to 550 million years ago and were potentially among the first

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Nautilus

Nautilus7 min readScience
When We Were the Cosmos: The director of the Griffith Observatory revisits the dawn of astronomy.
Leading off this week’s chapter of Nautilus, physics writer Michael Brooks carries on a playful, imaginary conversation with Jerome Cardano, a crazy-bold 16th-century scientist, inventor, and astrologer (it was, after all, the 16th century). Brooks w
Nautilus11 min read
The Ancient Rites That Gave Birth to Religion: Sacred beliefs likely arose out of prehistoric bonding and rituals.
The invention of religion is a big bang in human history. Gods and spirits helped explain the unexplainable, and religious belief gave meaning and purpose to people struggling to survive. But what if everything we thought we knew about religion was w
Nautilus6 min readScience
The Math Trick Behind MP3s, JPEGs, and Homer Simpson’s Face
Over a decade ago, I was sitting in a college math physics course and my professor spelt out an idea that kind of blew my mind. I think it isn’t a stretch to say that this is one of the most widely applicable mathematical discoveries, with applicatio