The Nature vs Nurture debate may never end, but it could become more interesting as researchers quantify the Nature aspects with genetics (and epigenetics and microbiome information and ...). But we've really only just started to learn about the vast genetic world of biology. We still have a lot to learn from simple fruit flies, so we're not about to crack the enormous number of genomes that exist (or that could even be synthesized
). Here are just a few genomes that scientists have started playing with.
- Octopus DNA is unusually large, but that's maybe not so surprising given how intelligent and complex these creatures are. In case you didn't know, octopuses can regrow limbs, change their skin color for camouflage, expel a cloud of ink to escape predators, and manipulate their boneless bodies to their advantage -- in surprising ways. The California two-spot octopus is the first cephalopod to have its genome fully sequenced, and while its genome is slightly shorter than the human genome, the octopus seems to have more genes than we do. [url]
- The genome of ixodes scapularis (aka the common tick) has been published, and it could lead to better ways to control these blood-sucking arthropods (and maybe Lyme disease, too). Tick saliva contains all kinds of possible pharmaceuticals (antimicrobials, analgesics, blood thinners, and immune suppressors) that help the bug feed on a variety of host animals. [url]
- Immortal HeLa cells have been useful in research because they were one of the first human cell lines to be conveniently grown outside of a person's body. However, HeLa cells originally came from a patient's tumor, so its DNA is filled with errors and is very different from normal human DNA. Cancer cells might even qualify as a new species -- if researchers can agree on a definition of what "species" is. [url]
- A platypus is just a weird animal, so it's not at all strange that its genome is weird, too. Platypus DNA codes for traits that are mammalian, reptilian and avian -- and the animal itself lays eggs, produces milk for its offspring and has unusual sex chromosomes. [url]
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