Oz sponge may help shed light on life's origin

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London, August 5 (ANI): Rice University's researchers have established a draft genome sequence for Amphimedon queenslandica, a sponge found off the coast of Australia - that can help them understand life's origin on Earth.

Sponges date back at least 650 million years, and are thought to be the first group of animals to branch from all the others.

Therefore, genes shared by sponges and other animals must have been present in the common ancestor of all metazoans.

"For example, sponges have embryos, and having the genome helps us look at how they develop and make specific connections to developmental pathways in other animals," said Nicholas Putnam.

The researchers wrote of a "striking conservation of gene structure and genome organization" that is common to all.

"We can now say that the large-scale patterns of genome organization we've seen conserved in other animal groups come from the very root of the animal tree," Putnam said.

There are some mysteries to be solved still - like those of invertebrates, and the fact that the basic structure of Amphimedon hasn't changed in 600 million years.

The study is published online this week in the journal Nature. (ANI)

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