Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Sequencing dinosaur DNA -- the jungle fowl

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Chicken gives up genetic secrets
Scientists have published a detailed analysis of the chicken genome, the biochemical "code" in the bird's cells that makes the animal what it is.

... The primary subject for the study was the red jungle fowl (Gallus gallus), the wild species from which domestic poultry was bred several thousand years ago.

... There are about 1.1 billion base-pairs in the chicken genome wound into 40 distinct bundles, or chromosomes. Written in the DNA are roughly 20-23,000 genes ... In the human genome, there are 3 billion base-pairs and 20-25,000 genes ...

... The analysis reveals that just 2.5% of the human code can be matched to chicken DNA.

It is an important finding. This small portion contains genes that have been largely preserved over the 310 million years since humans and birds shared a common ancestor.

... On a pure research level, though, there are some real gems in the chicken genome.

These include the realisation that the birds have a keen sense of smell. Scientists can also see genes related specifically to feathers, claws and scales - code sequences that are absent in humans.

Yes, scales. As in dinosaur scales. Keen sense of smell -- like dinosaurs. It will be interesting to compare these sequences to other legacies of the dinosaur era. Although humans have more base-pairs, the number of genes between bird and man are remarkably similar. Does this mean we are of roughly equal complexity? I wonder how much of the DNAis apparently non-coding? There's going to be a heck of a lot of fascinating science coming from this ...

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