Wednesday, March 6, 2024

All Element May Be Why Humans and Other Apes Lack Tails

 A small piece of repetitive DNA called an Alu element may be what stole our tails. In the article by ScienceNews, they talk about the genetic change that may have caused humans and apes to lack a tail genetically. Alu elements are called “genetic parasites”, transposing, and jumping genes but they are not the parasites we know. The DNA gets inserted into the host’s DNA and can become permanent parts of the genetic code. Transposons are now believed to be a critical role in our evolution, and are possibly also linked to the placenta and immune system. 140 genes involving vertebrae tails development were analyzed and a piece of DNA on the tbxt gene differed between monkeys and apes. They tested this hypothesis in mice by genetically engineering shorter Tamils or none at all by altering the tbxt gene. Some mice even had spinal cord defects, also leading to a possible connection between spinal bifida. There are several other genes that may have Alu elements scattered throughout that have not been studied or discovered yet.

Imagine our daily lives if we still had tails like some of our ancestors. It wouldn’t be a much different world if we never lost that phenotypic trait and it was never not normal, but I am interested to see if they will do more research into the spinal cord abnormalities and the possibility that these elements can be the cause of these birth defects. Imagine how many other genes in our species as well as other species have been affected by these jumping genes…


De Jesús, E. G. (2024, March 1). A genetic parasite may explain why humans and other apes lack tails. Science News.

Deininger, P. L. (2011, January 1). Alu elements: know the SINEs. (London. Print).

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