Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists Use MicroRNAs To Track Evolutionary History For First Time

Date:
September 10, 2009
Source:
Yale University
Summary:
Scientists have used microRNA data to investigate the evolutionary relationships of annelids, which include earthworms, leeches and bristle worms, to show that this large animal group evolved as a single, unique evolutionary branch. Their work represents the first time that microRNAs have been used to study the evolutionary relationships between organisms.

A common European earthworm burrowing into soil. (Credit: iStockphoto/Alasdair Thomson)
Credit: iStockphoto/Alasdair Thomson

The large group of segmented worms known as annelids, which includes earthworms, leeches and bristle worms, evolved millions of years ago and can be found in every corner of the world. Although annelids are one of the most abundant animal groups on the planet, scientists have struggled to understand how the different species of this biologically diverse group relate to each other in terms of their evolutionary history.

Now a team of scientists from Yale University and Dartmouth College has used a groundbreaking method to untangle some of that history.

The researchers used a novel source of data—the presence and absence of different microRNA genes—to investigate the evolutionary relationships of annelids. MicroRNAs are small, non-coding genes that have long been known to play an important role in developmental biology but which have never before been used to study the evolutionary relationships between organisms. The team’s findings appear online September 9 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

“These genes are excellent evolutionary markers,” said lead author Erik Sperling, a graduate student in Yale’s Department of Geology and Geophysics. “Once a microRNA gene is fixed in a species, it is very rarely lost. As such, organisms with similar microRNAs are closely related to one another.”

Building on previous work done at Kevin Peterson’s lab at Dartmouth, which demonstrated the potential of using microRNAs to decipher evolutionary history, the team applied a form of high-throughput sequencing technology at the Yale Center for Genomics and Proteomics that uses a novel strategy to reveal the microRNA complement of an organism.

They discovered that certain groups of organisms previously shown by molecular analyses to lie within the annelid family, such as mollusks and peanut worms, could not have evolved from the same branch of the evolutionary tree as the rest of the annelids. Instead, the team’s results demonstrate that annelids represent a unique evolutionary branch separate from these other organisms. They also show that the ancestral annelid more closely resembled a kind of bristle worm that lived on the seafloor, as opposed to the classical belief that it was a kind of burrowing worm that lived in the ocean mud.

The team’s microRNA sequencing results also agree with the order in which the different annelids and their relatives appear in the fossil record—something that previous hypotheses about their relationships had failed to do, said co-author Derek Briggs, Yale’s Frederick William Beinecke Professor of Geology and Geophysics.

“This study is an elegant example of how new methods can reconcile results from molecular sequencing of living animals with information from the fossil record,” he said.

Authors of the paper include Erik Sperling, Jakob Vinther and Derek Briggs (Yale University), Vanessa Moy and Kevin Peterson (Dartmouth College), Benjamin Wheeler (North Carolina State University), and Marie Sιmon (University of Lyon).


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

Yale University. "Scientists Use MicroRNAs To Track Evolutionary History For First Time." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 September 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090909122108.htm>.
Yale University. (2009, September 10). Scientists Use MicroRNAs To Track Evolutionary History For First Time. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090909122108.htm
Yale University. "Scientists Use MicroRNAs To Track Evolutionary History For First Time." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090909122108.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) — Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) — He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Buzz60 (Oct. 20, 2014) — An entomologist stumbled upon a South American Goliath Birdeater. With a name like that, you know it's a terrifying creepy crawler. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

3BL Media (Oct. 20, 2014) — Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-fuel Impala Video provided by 3BL
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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