Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Zealand's 'Living Dinosaur' -- The Tuatara -- Is Surprisingly The Fastest Evolving Animal

Date:
March 23, 2008
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
Researchers have found that, although tuatara have remained largely physically unchanged over very long periods of evolution, they are evolving -- at a DNA level -- faster than any other animal yet examined.

Tuatara in New Zealand.
Credit: iStockphoto/Robyn Grant

In a study of New Zealand's "living dinosaur" the tuatara, evolutionary biologist, and ancient DNA expert, Professor David Lambert and his team from the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution recovered DNA sequences from the bones of ancient tuatara, which are up to 8000 years old. They found that, although tuatara have remained largely physically unchanged over very long periods of evolution, they are evolving - at a DNA level - faster than any other animal yet examined.

"What we found is that the tuatara has the highest molecular evolutionary rate that anyone has measured," Professor Lambert says.

The rate of evolution for Adιlie penguins, which Professor Lambert and his team have studied in the Antarctic for many years, is slightly slower than that of the tuatara. The tuatara rate is significantly faster than for animals including the cave bear, lion, ox and horse.

"Of course we would have expected that the tuatara, which does everything slowly -- they grow slowly, reproduce slowly and have a very slow metabolism -- would have evolved slowly. In fact, at the DNA level, they evolve extremely quickly, which supports a hypothesis proposed by the evolutionary biologist Allan Wilson, who suggested that the rate of molecular evolution was uncoupled from the rate of morphological evolution."

Allan Wilson was a pioneer of molecular evolution. His ideas were controversial when introduced 40 years ago, but this new research supports them.

Professor Lambert says the finding will be helpful in terms of future study and conservation of the tuatara, and the team now hopes to extend the work to look at the evolution of other animal species.

"We want to go on and measure the rate of molecular evolution for humans, as well as doing more work with moa and Antarctic fish to see if rates of DNA change are uncoupled in these species. There are human mummies in the Andes and some very good samples in Siberia where we have some collaborators, so we are hopeful we will be able to measure the rate of human evolution in these animals too."

The tuatara, Sphendon punctatus, is found only in New Zealand and is the only surviving member of a distinct reptilian order Sphehodontia that lived alongside early dinosaurs and separated from other reptiles 200 million years ago in the Upper Triassic period.

Journal reference: Lambert et al.:"Rapid molecular evolution in a living fossil." Researchers include Jennifer M. Hay, Sankar Subramanian, Craig D. Millar, Elmira Mohandesan and David M. Lambert, Trends in Genetics. March 2008. (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tig.2007.12.002)


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "New Zealand's 'Living Dinosaur' -- The Tuatara -- Is Surprisingly The Fastest Evolving Animal." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 March 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080320120708.htm>.
Cell Press. (2008, March 23). New Zealand's 'Living Dinosaur' -- The Tuatara -- Is Surprisingly The Fastest Evolving Animal. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080320120708.htm
Cell Press. "New Zealand's 'Living Dinosaur' -- The Tuatara -- Is Surprisingly The Fastest Evolving Animal." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080320120708.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

San Diego Zoo Welcomes New, Rare Rhino Calf

San Diego Zoo Welcomes New, Rare Rhino Calf

Reuters - US Online Video (July 21, 2014) — An endangered black rhino baby is the newest resident at the San Diego Zoo. Sasha Salama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

AP (July 21, 2014) — A rise in shark sightings along the shores of Chatham, Massachusetts is driving a surge of eager vacationers to the beach town looking to catch a glimpse of a great white. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

Newsy (July 20, 2014) — Cynthia Robinson claims R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company hid the health and addiction risks of its products, leading to the death of her husband in 1996. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Centuries' Old British Tradition Is Far from a Swan Song

A Centuries' Old British Tradition Is Far from a Swan Song

AFP (July 19, 2014) — As if it weren't enough that the Queen is the Sovereign of the UK and 15 other Commonwealth realms, she is also the owner of all Britain's unmarked swans. Duration: 02:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins