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Gene analysis reveals lemurs' true colours

作者:张怦    发布时间:2019-04-03 01:09:01    

By Roxanne Khamsi (Image: L R Godfrey) (Image: Nick Pattinson) Three different-coloured mouse lemurs – one with reddish-brown fur, one with grey fur and one with mixed colouration – actually belong to the same species, researchers have discovered after a new genetic analysis. The world’s tiniest primates are found exclusively on the island nation of Madagascar and were thought to belong to two or three separate species. But a new DNA analysis of 70 mouse lemurs, of varying coat colour and from different types of forest locations, shows that they are not only genetically alike – they are all of the same species. Kelli Heckman at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, US, who carried out the study with colleagues, was surprised because the lemurs appeared so visibly different. The team looked for a gene called cytochrome B which appears only in mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down the female line. Since cytochrome B evolves at the same rate as speciation, scientists often examine it when determining whether or not two animals belong to the same species. This analysis revealed that all three types of mouse lemurs collected by Heckman and her team mates belonged to the Microcebus griseorufus species. They even found that two individual animals within this group that had the strikingly different fur colour actually had identical cytochrome B genes. In 1992 there were only two known mouse lemur species. This number has since jumped to 15 thanks to more research in Madagascar. Heckman says that the new findings lead her to suspect that some of the “new species” discovered recently may belong to previously reported ones. She stresses it is not enough to simply judge animals on their outward appearance or habitat location – DNA analysis is the key. Journal: BMC Evolutionary Biology (DOI:10.1186/1471-2148-6-98) More on these topics:

 

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