What we inherited from bug-eating mammal ancestors

earthsky.org | 6/13/2018 | Eleanor Imster
moni (Posted by) Level 3
Click For Photo: http://en.es-static.us/upl/2018/06/human-ancestor-mammal-300x200.jpg

Detailed artistic reconstruction of an ancestral placental mammal living during the Age of Dinosaurs 66 million years ago, showing teeth adapted to capturing and eating insects. Image via Carl Buell.

The distant ancestors of all mammals – small, furry creatures that scurried around the feet of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago – were mostly insect-eaters. The genes for the special enzymes that enabled them to digest insects are still hanging around in nearly all mammal genomes today – including our human genome. That’s according to a new analysis of the genomes of 107 different species of mammals, published May 16, 2018, in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances.

Study - Author - Christopher - Emerling - Fellow

Study author Christopher Emerling is a postdoctoral fellow at University of California, Berkeley. Emerling said that even animals like tigers and seals that would never touch an insect have non-functional pieces of these genes sitting in their chromosomes, betraying their ancient ancestors’ diet. He said:

One of the coolest things is, if you look at humans, at Fido your dog, Whiskers your cat, your horse, your cow; pick any animal, generally speaking, they have remnants in their genomes of a time when mammals were small, probably insectivorous and running around when dinosaurs were still roaming Earth.

Signature - Genome - Time - Group - Organisms

It is a signature in your genome that says, once upon a time you were not the dominant group of organisms on Earth. By looking at our genomes, we are looking at this ancestral past and a lifestyle that we don’t even live with anymore.

The genetic evidence corroborates the conclusions paleontologists reached years ago based on the shapes of fossils and teeth from early mammals. Emerling said:

Essence - Genomes - Story - Fossils - Animals

In essence, we are looking at genomes and they are telling the same story as the fossils: that we think these animals were insectivorous and then dinosaurs went extinct. After the demise of these...
(Excerpt) Read more at: earthsky.org
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