Sunday, 9 October 2016

Decoding of tarsier genome reveals ties to humans

Date: October 6, 2016
Source: Washington University in St. Louis

Small enough to fit into the palm of your hand, with enormous eyes and an appetite for meat, tarsiers are an anomaly of nature. They are also our distant cousins, according to scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, who recently sequenced and analyzed the tarsier genome.

The findings, published Oct. 6 in Nature Communications, place tarsiers on an important branch of the primate evolutionary tree -- along the same branch that leads to monkeys, great apes and humans.

"We sequenced the tarsier not only to determine where they fit in primate evolution, but because their physiology, anatomy and feeding behavior are very unique," said Wesley Warren, PhD, an associate professor of genetics and the study's senior author.

Tarsiers are the only exclusively carnivorous primate, eating insects and small birds, rodents and lizards. With eyes twice as big as their brains, a head that can rotate 180 degrees in each direction and the ability to track prey using ultrasound, the tiny animals are formidable nocturnal hunters. Their legs and feet are adapted for sudden, powerful leaps, with an elongated ankle bone, the tarsus, for which they are named.

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