Researchers have delved extensively into the untamed realm of mammalian evolution.
Over two hundred scientists from across the world have studied the genetic data of two hundred and forty different kinds of mammals. Researchers may use the information to start piecing together the history of mammals on Earth, the causes of human illness, and much more in the brain.
Animals as diverse as aardvarks, humans, fat-tailed dwarf lemurs, and tapirs were sampled for the Zoonomia Project, the results of which were published in eleven separate articles in the April 28 issue of Science.
"It's a really nice survey of the mammals that are out there," says Irene Gallego Romero, a human evolutionary geneticist at the University of Melbourne in Australia who was not involved in the study.
Scientists have decoded the genomes of all those animals, which consists of billions of "letters" of DNA, according to a 2020 paper. The group then compared each mammal's book's text to the others'. The researchers discovered that certain text remained essentially unchanged across all of the species they analysed.
Geneticist Elinor Karlsson of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical Centre in Worcester speculated in an April 25 news briefing that these conserved regions of the genome may be "doing something important." She also believes that sections with lots of changes are fascinating because they might provide information about how a species is responding to its surroundings.
Karlsson acknowledges that the 240 species researched are just a small subset (4%) of all extant mammals since they are all placental mammals. The one species that wasn't on the list "will annoy me to no end," she joked. "We tried to catch a raccoon, but we were unsuccessful."
N.S. Upham and M.J. Landis. Genomics expands the mammalverse. Science. Vol. 380, April 28, 2023, p. 359. doi: 10.1126/science.add2209.
I. Gallego Romero. Seeing humans through an evolutionary lens. Science. Vol. 380, April 28, 2023, p. 361. doi: 10.1126/science.adh0745.
G. Andrews et al. Mammalian evolution of human cis-regulatory elements and transcription factor binding sites. Science. Vol. 380, April 28, 2023, p. 362. doi: 10.1126/science.abn7930.
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