Marie Kmita and Shubin Lab

Genes linking human fingers and fish fins are now in hand

There’s nothing fishy about a newly found link between fish fins and the fingers of land dwellers, The New York Times reports. A new study in Nature shows that the bone development of human fingers and fish fins are in part controlled by the same two genes, Hoxa-13 and Hoxd-13. In tetrapods, four-legged vertebrates including humans, these genes tell embryos to form hands and feet. When the scientists prevented the genes from working in zebrafish, they failed to develop fingerlike projections called fin rays—the fishes’ “hands.” Because these genes have the same function in zebrafish, humans, and other tetrapods, it should help researchers further understand how our ancestors left the water and evolved limbs from fins.