Species evolve at very different rates, and the evolutionary line that produced humans seems to be among the slowest. The result, according to a new study by scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory [EMBL], is that our species has retained characteristics of a very ancient ancestor that have been lost in more quickly-evolving animals.
What was surprising was this:
The genes of animals usually contain extra bits of DNA sequence, called introns – information which has to be removed as cells create new molecules. The number of introns in genes, however, varies greatly among animals. While humans have many introns in their genes, common animal models such as flies have fewer. From an evolutionary perspective, it was long assumed that the simpler fly genes would be more ancient. The current study reveals the opposite: early animals already had a lot of introns, and quickly-evolving species like insects have lost most of them.
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