MicroRNAs…not fossils

The last ancestor we shared with worms lived 600 million years ago and may already have had a sophisticated brain that released hormones into the blood and was connected to various sensory organs. The evidence comes not from a newly found fossil, but from the study of microRNAs in a group of animals alive today representing an outgroup to the bilaterians, Platynereis dumerilii, a protostome retaining ancestral bilaterian features, Capitella, another marine annelid, the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus, a deuterostome, and the sea anemone Nematostella. Scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany, have discovered that these molecules are found in the exact same tissues in animals as diverse as sea anemones, worms, and humans, hinting at an early origin of these tissues in animal evolution.  (read more…)

Christodoulou F, Raible F, Tomer R, Simakov O, Trachana K, Klaus S, Snyman H, Hannon GJ, Bork P, Arendt D. (2010) Ancient animal microRNAs and the evolution of tissue identity. Nature [Epub ahead of print] [abstract]

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