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Researchers find first genetic evidence for loss of teeth in the common ancestor of baleen whales
Date:9/29/2010

tacea includes toothed whales (e.g., sperm whales, porpoises, dolphins) and baleen whales.

They found that the enamelysin gene was inactivated in the common ancestor of living baleen whales by the insertion of a "transposable genetic element" a mobile piece of DNA.

"Our results demonstrate that a transposable genetic element was inserted into the protein-coding region of the enamelysin gene in the common ancestor of baleen whales," Springer said. "The insertion of this transposable element disrupted the genetic blueprint that provides instructions for making the enamelysin protein. This means we now have two different records, the fossil record and the genomic record, that provide congruent support for the loss of mineralized teeth in the common ancestor of baleen whales."

The study, which appeared online last week (Sept. 22) in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, included eight baleen whale species and representatives of all major living lineages of Cetacea. The researchers examined protein-coding regions of the enamelysin gene for molecular cavities that are shared by all baleen whales.

Next, the researchers plan to piece together the complete evolutionary history of a variety of different tooth genes in baleen whales to provide an integrated record of the macroevolutionary transition from ancestral baleen whales that captured individual prey items with their teeth to present-day behemoths that entrap entire schools of minute prey with their toothless jaws.


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Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
iqbal@ucr.edu
951-827-6050
University of California -- Riverside
Source:Eurekalert

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