One of the unsolved mysteries of evolution is how animals evolved from their unicellular ancestors and what particular mechanisms took part in the development of their complex body plans. Leaded by researchers of the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (UPF-CSIC), a team has now deciphered the genetic mechanisms responsible for the great evolutionary success of animals. The results, which are published today in the journal Cell, point out that these mechanisms are found in the whole animal kingdom, including animals, but not in their unicellular ancestors.
According to this study, the great innovation that makes animals differ from their unicellular relatives is not the origin of new genes, but distal gene regulation.
Researchers have compared the genetic and epigenetic regulatory mechanisms of animals with that of one of the closest animal relatives, the amoeba Capsaspora owczarzaki, which was isolated from the hemolymph of a Puerto Rico snail. According to Ruiz-Trillo and colleagues, the amount of common regulatory mechanisms is higher than the number of differences.
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