Genome structure of dinosaurs discovered by bird-turtle comparisons

May 21, 2018 by Sandy Fleming, University of Kent
Credit: University of Kent

By comparing the genomes of different species, chiefly birds and turtles, the Kent team were able to determine how the overall genome structure (i.e. the chromosomes) of many people's favourite dinosaur species – like Velociraptor or Tyrannosaurus – might have looked through a microscope.

The research was carried out in the laboratory of Professor Darren Griffin, of the University's School of Biosciences, and is now published in the journal Nature Communications. It involved extrapolating the likely of a shared of birds and turtles that lived around 260 million years ago – 20 million years before the dinosaurs first emerged.

Dr. Becky O'Connor, senior postdoctoral researcher and co-author of the Nature Communications paper, then traced how changed over evolutionary time from a reptile ancestor to the present day.

The team found that, although the individual chromosomes rearranged their genes internally, this did not occur much at all between the chromosomes – what the scientists describe as 'a significant discovery'.

Birds (which are themselves living dinosaurs) have a lot of chromosomes compared to most other species and that is possibly one of the reasons why they are so diverse. This research suggests that the pattern of chromosomes (karyotype) seen in early emerging and later theropods is similar to that of most birds and, again, may help explain their great diversity.

The new discovery suggests that, had scientists had the opportunity to make a chromosome preparation from a theropod dinosaur, it might have looked very similar to that of a modern-day ostrich, duck or chicken.

One of the key pieces of biotechnology that made it possible was the development of a set of fluorescent probes derived from birds that worked well on the chromosomes of turtles.

Explore further: Chickens and turkeys 'closer to dinosaur ancestors' than other birds

More information: Rebecca E. O'Connor et al. Reconstruction of the diapsid ancestral genome permits chromosome evolution tracing in avian and non-avian dinosaurs, Nature Communications (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-04267-9

Related Stories

How dinosaurs may have evolved into birds

May 26, 2017

Tohoku University researchers and their international collaborators have identified a possible genetic mechanism underlying the evolution of birds, according to a recently published study in Nature Communications.

B chromosomes affect sex determination in cichlid fishes

August 18, 2011

B chromosomes have a functional effect on sex determination in a species of cichlid fishes from Lake Victoria, according to a study by Japanese researchers to be published in open-access journal PLoS Genetics on August 18th, ...

Scientists map sex chromosome evolution in pathogenic fungi

August 11, 2017

Biologically speaking, nearly every species on Earth has two opposite sexes, male and female. But with some fungi and other microbes, sex can be a lot more complicated. Some members of Cryptococcus, a family of fungus linked ...

Recommended for you

Why war is a man's game

August 15, 2018

No sex differences in attitudes or abilities are needed to explain the near absence of women from the battlefield in ancient societies and throughout history, it could ultimately all be down to chance, say researchers at ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.