Two VCOM-Louisiana faculty members, Pawel Michalak, PhD, and Lin Kang, PhD, recently published a paper in “Nature” outlining their work related to sequencing and analysis of the genome of a rare New Zealand vertebrate, “a living fossil,” the tuatara. Its genome, which is 67 percent bigger than the human genome, has revealed a genomic architecture unlike anything previously reported and helped confirm the evolutionary position and unique life history of this ancient reptile.
The tuatara is a fascinating vertebrate species whose ability to live for more than 100 years with a low instance of disease may hold important insights for the future of medical research. In conjunction with other researchers across the globe, Michalak and Kang contributed to the functional annotation and characterization of genomic elements of the tuatara genome.
This new genome has given researchers critical insights into the longevity and robust nature of the tuatara. “The tuatara genome itself will enable many future studies to explore the evolution of complex systems across the vertebrates in a more complete way than has previously been possible. The investigations of tuatara genome identified genetic candidates that may explain the ultra-low active body temperature, longevity, and apparent resistance to infectious disease, thus providing the insights for the healthcare research,” said Kang.