Be it picking World Cup winners, unscrewing lids, or becoming consummate escape artists, cephalopods (octopus, squid, and cuttlefish) are well known for their logical sophistication within the animal kingdom— especially among invertebrates. Yet, at what cost do this neural complexity have on these elusive ocean critters. A new study from investigators at the Marine Natural Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole and Tel Aviv University suggests that cephalopods’ evolutionary path to neural sophistication features a novel mechanism— prolific RNA editing at the expense associated with evolution in their genomic DNA.    

The results from this new study— published recently in Cell within an article entitled “ Trade-off between Transcriptome Plasticity plus Genome Evolution in Cephalopods “— builds on the scientists’ prior discovery that squid display an extraordinarily higher rate of editing in coding regions of their RNA, particularly in nervous system cells, which has the effect associated with diversifying the proteins that the cells can…