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Tuataras are the roadrunners of molecular evolution.
I don't remember this coming up on the lists yet.
Apologies if this has been posted before.
The latest issue of Trends in Genetics has what
appears to be a very interesting study on _Sphenodon_.
It seems that tuataras do at least one thing faster
than any other critter studied so far:
Rapid molecular evolution in a living fossil
Jennifer M. Hay1, Sankar Subramanian1, Craig D.
Millar2, Elmira Mohandesan1 and David M. Lambert1,
E-mail The Corresponding Author
1Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and
Evolution, Institute of Molecular BioSciences, Massey
University, Private Bag 102904 NSMC, Auckland, New
2Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and
Evolution, School of Biological Sciences, University
of Auckland, Private 92019, Auckland, New Zealand
The tuatara of New Zealand is a unique reptile that
coexisted with dinosaurs and has changed little
morphologically from its Cretaceous relatives. Tuatara
have very slow metabolic and growth rates, long
generation times and slow rates of reproduction. This
suggests that the species is likely to exhibit a very
slow rate of molecular evolution. Our analysis of
ancient and modern tuatara DNA shows that,
surprisingly, tuatara have the highest rate of
molecular change recorded in vertebrates. Our work
also suggests that rates of neutral molecular and
phenotypic evolution are decoupled.
If anyone has the paper, I'd love to grab a copy.
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