Ancient DNA (aDNA) has the ability to inform the evolutionary history of both extant and extinct taxa; however, the use of aDNA in the study of avian evolution is lacking in comparison to other vertebrates, despite birds being one of the most species-rich vertebrate classes. Here, we review the field of “avian ancient DNA” by summarising the past three decades of literature on this topic. Most studies over this time have used avian aDNA to reconstruct phylogenetic relationships and clarify taxonomy based on the sequencing of a few mitochondrial loci, but recent studies are moving toward using a comparative genomics approach to address developmental and functional questions.
A genetic-engineering tool designed to spread through a population like wildfire — eradicating disease and even whole invasive species — might be more easily thwarted than thought.
Resistance to the tools, called CRISPR gene drives, arose at high rates in experiments with Drosophila melanogaster fruit flies, researchers at Cornell University report July 20 in PLOS Genetics. Rates of resistance varied among strains of fruit flies collected around the world, from a low of about 4 percent in embryos from an Ithaca, N.Y., strain to a high of about 56 percent in Tasmanian fruit fly embryos.
“At these rates, the constructs would not start spreading in the population,” says coauthor Philipp Messer, a population geneticist. “It might require quite a bit more work to get a gene drive that works at all.”
An evolutionary biologist at the University of Houston has published new calculations that indicate no more than 25 percent of the human genome is functional. That is in stark contrast to suggestions by scientists with the ENCODE project that as much as 80 percent of the genome is functional.
In work published online in Genome Biology and Evolution, Dan Graur reports the functional portion of the human genome probably falls between 10 percent and 15 percent, with an upper limit of 25 percent. The rest is so-called junk DNA, or useless but harmless DNA.
Verily, the life science’s arm of Google’s parent company Alphabet, has hatched a plan to release about 20 million lab-made, bacteria-infected mosquitoes upon Fresno, California — and that’s a good thing!
You see, the Zika-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito is prevalent in the area. Earlier this year, a woman contracted the first confirmed case of Zika in Fresno through sexual contact with a partner who had been traveling. Now there’s the fear of most likely inevitable mosquito-meets-patient if we don’t do something about it. Verily’s plan, called the Debug Project, hopes to now wipe out this potential Zika-carrying mosquito population to prevent further infections.
From the common barn swallow to the exotic giraffe, thousands of animal species are in precipitous decline, a sign that an irreversible era of mass extinction is underway, new research finds.
The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, calls the current decline in animal populations a “global epidemic” and part of the “ongoing sixth mass extinction” caused in large measure by human destruction of animal habitats. The previous five extinctions were caused by natural phenomena.
To date, The Genetic Rescue Foundation’s Kakapo 125 Project has successfully sequenced 80 kākāpō. This work was made possible by collaborating with DNA sequencing service providers on the Science Exchange network. In addition to enabling The Genetic Rescue Foundation to easily access the world’s best service providers we’re thrilled to announce that Science Exchange will be funding the remainder of the project in order to bring it to completion!
Detailed genetic data for every individual in an entire species is a world first and represents a genomics-focused paradigm shift in modern conservation efforts. The possible discoveries that will come from this rich dataset are limitless. Scientists’ immediate efforts will be focused on finding genetic links to dwarfism, infertility and other diseases and conditions hampering kākāpō population recovery.