Sodium Channel Evolution in Electric Fish
This activity guides the analysis of a published scientific figure from a study that investigated how gene duplication contributed to the evolution of electric fish.
Electric fish use electrical signals for navigating their environments, communicating with other electric fish, or even defending against predators and stunning prey. The fish produce electricity through a special organ that generates very fast action potentials. This ability may have evolved through the duplication and mutation of certain sodium channel genes. This figure compares the expression patterns of several sodium channel genes among three groups of fish, including two different groups of electric fish.
The “Educator Materials” document includes a captioned figure, background information, graph interpretation, and discussion questions. The “Student Handout” includes a captioned figure and background information.
Student Learning Targets
- Analyze and interpret data from a scientific figure.
- Compare and interpret patterns of gene expression among species.
- Describe how gene duplication can contribute to the evolution of new phenotypes.
action potential, bar graph, electricity, error bar, gene duplication, ion channel, muscle, neuron, phylogenetic tree, standard deviation
Thompson, Ammon, Daniel T. Infield, Adam R. Smith, G. Troy Smith, Christopher A. Ahern, and Harold H. Zakon. “Rapid evolution of a voltage-gated sodium channel gene in a lineage of electric fish leads to a persistent sodium current.” PLoS Biology 16, 3 (2018): e2004892. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2004892.
The resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license. No rights are granted to use HHMI’s or BioInteractive’s names or logos independent from this Resource or in any derivative works.
Accessibility Level (WCAG compliance)
HS-LS3-1, HS-LS4-5; SEP2, SEP4, SEP5
AP Biology (2019)
EVO-3.C, IST-5.A; SP1, SP4
IB Biology (2016)
3.1, 5.1, 5.4
Common Core (2010)
Math.S-ID.6, Math.S-IC.4; MP2, MP5
Vision and Change (2009)
CC1, CC2; DP2, DP3