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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A ; 120(18): e2220404120, 2023 05 02.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-37094121


Blinking, the transient occlusion of the eye by one or more membranes, serves several functions including wetting, protecting, and cleaning the eye. This behavior is seen in nearly all living tetrapods and absent in other extant sarcopterygian lineages suggesting that it might have arisen during the water-to-land transition. Unfortunately, our understanding of the origin of blinking has been limited by a lack of known anatomical correlates of the behavior in the fossil record and a paucity of comparative functional studies. To understand how and why blinking originates, we leverage mudskippers (Oxudercinae), a clade of amphibious fishes that have convergently evolved blinking. Using microcomputed tomography and histology, we analyzed two mudskipper species, Periophthalmus barbarus and Periophthalmodon septemradiatus, and compared them to the fully aquatic round goby, Neogobius melanostomus. Study of gross anatomy and epithelial microstructure shows that mudskippers have not evolved novel musculature or glands to blink. Behavioral analyses show the blinks of mudskippers are functionally convergent with those of tetrapods: P. barbarus blinks more often under high-evaporation conditions to wet the eye, a blink reflex protects the eye from physical insult, and a single blink can fully clean the cornea of particulates. Thus, eye retraction in concert with a passive occlusal membrane can achieve functions associated with life on land. Osteological correlates of eye retraction are present in the earliest limbed vertebrates, suggesting blinking capability. In both mudskippers and tetrapods, therefore, the origin of this multifunctional innovation is likely explained by selection for increasingly terrestrial lifestyles.

Piscadela , Perciformes , Animais , Microtomografia por Raio-X , Peixes/anatomia & histologia