Saturday, November 11, 2006

Our Ancestor?

May be the sea urchin.

"Scientists have long known that humans and sea urchins are closely related. In fact, these animals are the only invertebrates on the human branch of the evolutionary tree of life. Now that the sea urchin genome is sequenced and assembled, that genetic connection is even clearer."

Spiny creature's genome insight

"Any snorkeler who has ever marvelled at the spherical, almost otherworldly, symmetry of the sea urchin will be amazed to learn that this organism, so different in habitat and body plan from ourselves, actually shares a substantial number of the same genes and pathways," said Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) which helped fund the project.

"It turns out that the sea urchin is very much like us," said George Weinstock, the co- director of the HGSC. "You wouldn't think it to look at it. But it's closer to us than a fly," he said. The group estimates the sea urchin has 23,300 genes. For comparison, the fruit fly has about 13,600 and humans 20,000 to 25,000.




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