Armed with legs, fins or wings, claws, hooves or horns, about 6,500 species of mammals, of amazing diversity, live on the planet. Some tread the ground, others part the waves; Some drill underground, while others spin in the air. From deserts to polar regions, they are adapted to almost all habitats.
Since the birth of the first mammals about 220 million years ago, evolution has taken its time to chisel these creatures. Admittedly, compared to the million known species of insects, mammals pale in comparison. But their differences are within the reach of our eyes. More recently, they have been measured by the yardstick of a discontinuous molecule: DNA, coiled and compacted in the nucleus of each cell, providing the instructions for the construction of each species.
DNA, the history of distant ancestors, is written in this grimoire. An international consortium called Junomia has put these evolutionary forces to work. On April 27, he revealed in eleven articles published by the Review ScienceHis results compared the genomes of 240 mammals. Arctic fox, proboscis monkey, snowshoe hare, Father David deer, hey-hey, giant anteater, brown-throated sloth, Amazon dolphin, bumblebee bat, blue whale… a veritable Noah’s Ark. Different families of mammals. Half of the specimens came from the Wildlife Alliance San Diego Zoo (California).
Launched in 2015, the Zoonomia project brings together more than 150 scientists and 30 groups from around the world. It was coordinated by geneticist Kerstin Lindblatt-Doh and bioinformatician Eleanor Carlson, both from the Broad Institute (Harvard University). It is one of dozens of major efforts aimed at sequencing animal genomes. For example, the Vertebrate Genomes Project handles the genomes of 71,000 living vertebrates. Another alliance was announced on June 2 ScienceSequenced and compared the entire genomes of 233 animals.
What can we expect from them? Are ambitious projects often announced with great fanfare? By revealing regions of the genome that have been conserved during evolution (shared among many species), or specific to a few species, these comparisons provide “An Extraordinary Evolutionary Interpreter”Stanislas Lyonnet, director of the Imagine Institute at Necker Hospital (AP-HP, Inserm, Paris Cité University), is delighted.
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