In “Phylogeny: Rewriting evolution” (Nature, 27 June 2012), Elie Dolgin reports that “Tiny molecules called microRNAs are tearing apart traditional ideas about the animal family tree.”
A molecular palaeobiologist at nearby Dartmouth College, Peterson has been reshaping phylogenetic trees for the past few years, ever since he pioneered a technique that uses short molecules called microRNAs to work out evolutionary branchings. He has now sketched out a radically different diagram for mammals: one that aligns humans more closely with elephants than with rodents.
“I’ve looked at thousands of microRNA genes, and I can’t find a single example that would support the traditional tree,” he says. The technique “just changes everything about our understanding of mammal evolution”.
Peterson didn’t set out to rewrite textbooks. A mild-mannered but straight-talking Montanan, Peterson had made a quiet career studying how bilateral body plans originated more than 500 million years ago.
When this stuff is appearing in Nature on as regular basis, you know things are changing.
See also: Darwinists used to think the tree of life had to make sense, but they take a pill for that now
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