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Sea Urchins R Us

We may not be related to Neanderthals, but we ARE related to small sea creatures called sea urchins! The Sea Urchin Genome Sequencing Project (SUGSP) Consortium (yes, there is such a thing) has announced that they have succeeded in decoding the DNA of the sea urchin...and found it surprisingly similar to ours.

They found more than 814 million DNA "letters," spelling out 23,300 genes. Nearly 10,000 of the genes were scrutinized by an international consortium of 240 scientists from 11 countries. According to biologist Judith Venuti, "Unraveling the sea urchin genome has yielded striking similarities and surprising differences between sea urchins and humans."

Sea urchins are marine animals that originated over 540 million years ago. They belong to a family that includes starfish, brittle stars, sea lilies, and sea cucumbers. There was great interest in the sea urchin as a target for genome sequencing because these animals share a common ancestor with humans.

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