Magazine article Science News

Genes for Giraffes' Long Necks Found: Influences on Embryonic Development May Explain Length

Magazine article Science News

Genes for Giraffes' Long Necks Found: Influences on Embryonic Development May Explain Length

Article excerpt

Giraffes' genes tell a not-so-tall tale about growing necks to great lengths.

Tweaks to genes important for development may account for both the giraffe's stature and turbocharged cardiovascular system, researchers report May 17 in Nature Communications.

Researchers compiled the genetic instruction book, or genome, for both the giraffe and the okapi, its short-necked closest living relative. Those two species' most recent common ancestor lived about 11.5 million years ago, says Douglas Cavener, a geneticist at Penn State University. Overall, giraffes and okapis still have very similar genes, with 19.4 percent that are identical.

The researchers compared giraffe, okapi and cattle genomes to see what sets giraffes and okapis apart from other ungulates. About 400 genes differ between those species and cattle.

Additional comparisons revealed 70 genes in which giraffes have DNA differences from all other mammals that have been analyzed. Those uniquely tweaked genes could be responsible for giraffes' unusual height and physiology, the researchers reasoned.

Among the giraffe's most distinctively altered genes are some that are well known to regulate embryo development. For instance, the team found alterations in several genes that govern skeletal development, including the gene FGFRL1.

FGFRL1 encodes a protein that helps regulate the size of body segments. Giraffes have the same number of vertebrae in their necks as okapi and other animals do, but the bones are bigger. The giraffe version of the FGFRL1 protein contains seven amino acids that are different from those found in other mammals. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.