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Getting under the shell of the turtle genome

Date:
March 28, 2013
Source:
BioMed Central Limited
Summary:
The genome of the western painted turtle, one of the most widespread, abundant and well-studied turtles in the world, has been sequenced. The data show that, like turtles themselves, the rate of genome evolution is extremely slow; turtle genomes evolve at a rate that is about a third that of the human genome and a fifth that of the python, the fastest lineage analyzed.

The genome of the western painted turtle, one of the most widespread, abundant and well-studied turtles in the world, has been sequenced.
Credit: Willee Cole / Fotolia

The genome of the western painted turtle (Chrysemys picta bellii) one of the most widespread, abundant and well-studied turtles in the world, is published this week in Genome Biology. The data show that, like turtles themselves, the rate of genome evolution is extremely slow; turtle genomes evolve at a rate that is about a third that of the human genome and a fifth that of the python, the fastest lineage analyzed.

As a group, turtles are long-lived, can withstand low temperatures including freezing solid, can survive for long periods with no oxygen, and their sex is usually determined by the temperature at which their eggs develop rather than genetically. The painted turtle is most anoxia-tolerant vertebrate and can survive up to four months under water depending on the temperature. Turtles and tortoises are also the most endangered major vertebrate group on earth, with half of all species listed as endangered. This is the first turtle, and only the second non-avian reptile genome to be sequenced, and the analysis reveals some interesting insights about these bizarre features and adaptations, many of which are only known in turtles.

The western painted turtle is a freshwater species, and the most widespread turtle native to North America. Bradley Shaffer and colleagues place the western painted turtle genome into a comparative evolutionary context, showing that turtles are more closely related to birds and crocodilians than to any other vertebrates. They also find 19 genes in the brain and 23 in the heart whose expression is increased in low oxygen conditions -- including one whose expression changes nearly 130 fold. Further experiments on turtle hatchlings indicated that common microRNA was involved in freeze tolerance adaptation.

This work consistently indicates that common vertebrate regulatory networks, some of which have analogs in human diseases, are often involved in the western painted turtle achieving its extraordinary physiological capacities. The authors argue that the painted turtle may offer important insights into the management of a number of human health disorders, particularly those involved with anoxia and hypothermia.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. John Abramyan, Daleen Badenhorst, Kyle K Biggar, Glen M Borchert, Christopher W Botka, Rachel M Bowden, Edward L Braun, Anne M Bronikowski, Benoit G Bruneau, Leslie T Buck, Blanche Capel, Todd A Castoe, Mike Czerwinski, Kim D Delehaunty, Scott V Edwards, Catrina C Fronick, Matthew K Fujita, Lucinda Fulton, Tina A Graves, Richard E Green, Wilfried Haerty, Ramkumar Hariharan, LaDeana H Hillier, Alisha K Holloway, Daniel Janes, Fredric J Janzen, Cyriac Kandoth, Lesheng Kong, Jason de Koning, Yang Li et al. The western painted turtle genome, a model for the evolution of extreme physiological adaptations in a slowly evolving lineage. Genome Biology, 2013 DOI: 10.1186/gb-2013-14-3-r28

Cite This Page:

BioMed Central Limited. "Getting under the shell of the turtle genome." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 March 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130328075712.htm>.
BioMed Central Limited. (2013, March 28). Getting under the shell of the turtle genome. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130328075712.htm
BioMed Central Limited. "Getting under the shell of the turtle genome." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130328075712.htm (accessed April 20, 2014).

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Apr. 3, 2013 Scientists have decoded the genome of the western painted turtle, one of the most abundant turtles on Earth, finding clues to their longevity and ability to survive without oxygen during long winters ... read more
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