A genetic trigger for the Cambrian explosion unraveled?

Aug 31, 2007

A team of scientists led by young Croatian evolutionary geneticist Tomislav Domazet-Lošo from Ruder Boškovic Institute (RBI) in Zagreb, Croatia, developed a novel methodological approach in evolutionary studies. Using the method they named 'genomic phylostratigraphy', its authors shed new and unexpected light on some of the long standing macroevolutionary issues, which have been puzzling evolutionary biologists since Darwin.

The only direct method of research in evolutionary history involves analyzing the fossil remains of once living organisms, excavated in various localities throughout of the world. However, that approach often cannot provide the full evolutionary pathway of some species, as it requires uncovering of many fossils from various stages of its evolutionary history. As the fossil record is imperfect, the evolution research fundamentally hinges on luck factor in discovering the adequate paleontological sites.

However, the RBI team proposed a novel and interesting approach to bypass this obstacle. Namely, they suggested that the genome of every extant species carries the ‘snapshots’ of evolutionary epochs that species went trough. What's even more important, they also developed the method which enables evolution researchers to readily convert those individual 'snapshots’ into the full-length 'evolutionary movie' of a species.

Applying their new methodology on the fruit fly genomic data they tackled some of the most intriguing evolutionary puzzles - some of which distressed even Darwin himself. First, they demonstrated that parts of the living organism exposed to the environment – so called ‘ectoderm’ - are more prone to evolutionary changes.

Further, they explained the evolutionary origin of the ‘germ layers’, the primary tissue forms that form during the first days after the conception of a new animal, and from which subsequently all other tissues are developed. Finally, they discovered the potential genetic trigger for the 'Cambrian explosion', a major global evolutionary event on the planet, when some 540 million years ago almost all animal forms known today suddenly 'appeared'.

The first public lecture on these findings will be given by dr. Domazet-Lošo at ISABS Conference in Forensic Genetics and Molecular Anthropology, held in Split, Croatia. The paper fully presenting the theory of genomic phylostratigraphy will appear in the November issue of 'Trends in genetics', the most established monthly journal in Genetics.

Source: RBI

Explore further: Discovery reveals how bacteria distinguish harmful versus helpful viruses

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA radar system surveys Napa Valley quake area

23 minutes ago

NASA scientists are conducting an airborne survey of earthquake fault displacements in the Napa Valley area of Northern California using a sophisticated radar system developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, ...

New research shows temperatures vary block by block

3 minutes ago

This summer has seen the temperature rise above the severe heat mark of 90 degrees just five times, with the latest happening Wednesday afternoon. That's far fewer times than in an average New York summer.

Recommended for you

No-take marine reserves a no-win for seahorses

11 minutes ago

A UTS study on how seahorses are faring in no-take marine protected areas (MPAs) in NSW has revealed that where finishing is prohibited, seahorses aren't doing as well.

Going to extremes for enzymes

2 hours ago

In the age-old nature versus nurture debate, Douglas Clark, a faculty scientist with Berkeley Lab and the University of California (UC) Berkeley, is not taking sides. In the search for enzymes that can break ...

User comments : 0