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Rights: The University of Waikato
Published 16 November 2007

Dr Love explains how we can gain some knowledge of the complex, by looking at the slightly less complex and how we can learn a lot about humans from zebrafish.


Don Love (Auckland University): What I am interested in is looking at the hierarchy of complexity. So you would have simple organisms down here, it could be yeast or prokaryotes , bacteria or yeast is a simple eukaryote . And then at the top of this hierarchy, if you wish, would be human, and non-human primates, just below that would be monkeys. You think well what other levels are there? Well in terms of complexity, zebrafish is a vertebrate , not a mammal, more complex than yeast, less complex than human. In terms of the number of genes, the number of genes in humans are not vastly greater than present in the zebrafish, there might only be a few thousand in it. But it’s a fish, and we’re humans, we’re more complex than fish. Yes we are but it’s the complexity of gene expression in the networks, the network is the critical thing, the the number of genes per se. So in terms of complexity, fish features higher up in the hierachy so we can gain some knowledge of the very much more complex, by looking at the slightly less complex. How far down you go? Well it depends on what question you are asking. So I think I look at it as levels of complexity, not it’s a fish, it's so different, it breaths in water, so its going to be useless. I think of it (the fish) as a complex eukaryotic gene expression programme, just not as complex as us.