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Turtle genome analysis sheds light on the development and evolution of turtle-specific body plan
Date:4/28/2013

April 28, 2013, Shenzhen, China- The Joint International Turtle Genomes Consortium, led by investigators from RIKEN, BGI, and Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, has completed the genome sequencing of soft-shell turtle (Pelodiscus sinensis) and green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas). These achievements shed new light on the origin of turtles and applied the classical evo-devo model to explain the developmental process of their unique body plan. The findings were published online in Nature Genetics.

The evolution of turtles is an enigma in science. Their distinct body design-with a sharp beak and protective hard shell has changed very little over the past 210 million years. As the smallest species of soft-shell turtles, Chinese soft-shell turtle was once commonly sold in pet shops. Green sea turtle is considered as the largest of all the hard-shelled sea turtles and is named because of the green fat beneath its shell. Its population sizes has been drastically reduced recently and it has been listed as an endangered species.

To reveal the evolutionary history of turtles and the mechanisms underlying the development of their unique anatomical features, researchers in this project sequenced and analyzed the genomes of soft-shell turtle and green sea turtle. They found the evidence that turtles are likely to be a sister group with the common ancestor of crocodilians and birds from whole genome phylogenetic analyses. The turtles were diverged from archosaurians approximately between 267.9 and 248.3 million years ago, which coincides with the time range of the Upper Permian to Triassic period that overlapped or followed shortly after the end of Permian extinction.

In the study, researchers performed the brief research on genes may be associated with the turtle-specific characteristics, and found some olfactory receptor (OR) gene families were highly expanded in both turtles. This finding suggests that turtles have developed sup
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Contact: Jia Liu
liujia@genomics.cn
BGI Shenzhen
Source:Eurekalert

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