New research into the cephalopod genome is undermining our assumptions about evolution, and the role that DNA mutations play in updating a species’ physiology.

Researchers from the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole and Tel Aviv University have been studying how cephalopods — squids, octopuses, cuttlefish and nautiluses — edit their genome, and found that instead of relying on DNA mutations to adapt, they have the ability to make changes to their RNA, the genetic “messengers” that carry out the instructions written by DNA.

This means that their fundamental genetic code remains largely the same from generation to generation, while changes occur at the level of the individual and don’t carry over to their offspring.

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