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Tuatara genome sequenced; some surprising findings

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The tuatara is a rare New Zealand reptile, thought to be the only surviving member of a family, Rhynchocephalia, that predated and flourished alongside the dinosaurs. They are best known for longevity and for having bird-like features. Findings:

The genome produced by Gemmell and co-workers is one of the largest vertebrate genomes published so far. At more than 5 gigabases, it is about 50% larger than the human genome…

Tuatara have a close resemblance to their forebears from the early Mesozoic era, between 240 million and 230 million years ago…

On average, more than 50% of a vertebrate’s genome is comprised of repetitive DNA sequences (repeat elements)9. In line with this figure, 64% of the tuatara genome is repeat elements. However, the types of repeat element were a combination of mammal-like and reptile-like…

The researchers also found that the tuatara genome has a broader range of DNA sequences called transposons (sequences that can move from one genomic location to another) than has any other reptile, bird or mammal sequenced so far.

Rebecca N. Johnson, “Tuatara genome reveals diverse insights into a remarkable reptile” at Nature

The tuatara hasn’t stopped seeming strange.

The paper is open access.

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