The Genomics and Evolution of Venomous Fishes

Primary researcher: Leo Smith, Curator, Ichthyology

Paracentropogon longispinis

Venomous fishes pose a serious human threat with >50,000 reported envenomations per year. Prior to work from my lab, we knew little about the phylogenetic distribution of venomous fishes with most previous estimates identifying just 200 venomous fishes. Following the results of my lab's genetic and anatomical studies, more than 2,500 fish species should now be considered venomous. This makes fishes, not snakes, the most diverse group of venomous vertebrates. We have significantly expanded our previous phylogenetic and anatomical studies by exploring particular groups of venomous fishes in more detail as well as generating ever-larger phylogenetic studies across all ray-finned fishes. These more traditional systematic methods are now be combined with transcriptomic and EST data from a diversity of venom glands for a more genomic approach to venom evolution. As we move these studies forward, we are proteomic work to explore the evolution of these often harmful and potentially medically beneficial proteins.

These projects have been funded by the National Science Foundation through grants on the Phylogenetics of Scorpionfishes, The Euteleost Tree of Life, The Evolution of Pharyngognathy, and the Diversification of Spiny-Rayed Fishes.