Friday, November 13, 2020

The Genetics of the Tuatara


    The tuatara is a reptile that has been around since the dinosaurs. Its century-long life span, resistance to several infectious diseases, and optimal activity in very low temperatures have been questioned by scientists for years, but not until recently was the genome of the tuatara finally sequenced. The tuatara's genome is 5 million base pairs, and is two-thirds larger than the human genome. There were several observations made from the sequencing of the tuatara genome. The first is that the tuatara is more closely related to snakes and lizards than crocodiles, birds or turtles. The second was the discovery of selenoproteins, which help protect the reptile from cellular deterioration, which contributes to its extremely long life span, Another observation was an abundant amount of TRP genes in the tuatara. "TRP genes are involved in making proteins tied to temperature sensitivity and also aid in the regulation of body temperature," (Buehler, 2020). The excessive amount of TRP genes in the tuatara is what aids in their ability to survive and prosper in such low temperatures. Sequencing the genome of the tuatara has given humans insight into their evolutionary history, and may even be useful for human usage. Is it possible for humans to look at the tuatara's selenoproteins and somehow use them to increase human lifespan? I think that continuing to study the genome of the tuatara will provide new discoveries about most importantly, evolution, but could also help in the preservation of this species. With the earth's temperature increasing, and their optimal activity being in cooler temperatures, we need to be careful of extinction of species such as the tuatara, that can give us much insight into the evolutionary world.

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