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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Geneticists have figured out how giraffes have been able to grow a long neck


A new study conducted by researchers from the UK, USA and Tanzania allowed to answer the question, how these animals managed to become the highest of all the land animals that exist today. As it turned out, it contributed no new genes, and a set of genetic mutations.

In a giraffe’s neck contains only seven vertebrae (the same as, for example, in the man’s neck), but the giraffe has these vertebrae are significantly wider. To provide the brain with nutrients giraffe, his heart must deliver it at a very impressive height, which is ensured by the special structure of this heart, high blood pressure (two times more compared to human) and very solid walls of blood vessels. For all of these changes are genetic adaptations that professionals and were able to trace, by comparing giraffes with their currently the only “relatives” — of cloven-hoofed animals called Okapi. A long neck do not possess, and in General they look more like zebras. However, from a genetic point of view to giraffes they are incomparably closer, their common ancestors lived 28 million years ago, that is relatively recent by the standards of evolution. Also, experts have compared the genes of a giraffe with 40 other animals, from a mouse to a camel, writes The Guardian.

“The reason for the unique height and a powerful cardiovascular system of giraffes was not the emergence of new genes, and the emergence of modifications a small number of genes, an important role in regulating the development and functioning of the body was already well known,” — said Douglas Cavener from the University of Pennsylvania, one of the authors of the study. Only experts managed to find 70 genes, variations of which can “answer” for the long neck of the giraffe and its attendant fixtures. Thus the special role is probably played FGFRL1 gene, which plays a key role in the formation of both the skeleton and the cardiovascular system.

Genetics published their study in the journal Nature Communications. They assume that in the future they will check the findings in experiments on animals — for example, try to insert some giraffe genes in the DNA of mouse and check if her neck is significantly longer than usual.

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