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Manatee Bones Explain Evolution of Leglessness

One gene may guide development of fish, snakes, other creatures, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 30, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Research on manatee bones has yielded new insights into evolution, Stanford University researchers report.

David Kingsley, a professor of developmental biology at Stanford's School of Medicine, weighed 114 pairs of manatee pelvic bones and found the average left pelvic bone was 10 percent larger than the right one.

The finding, combined with Kingsley's previous research, suggests that mutations in one gene, called PitX1, may be responsible for the evolution of leglessness in manatees and numerous others species around the world, such as whales, fish and snakes.

"It's striking that evolution might use the same mechanism over and over," Kingsley said in a prepared statement.

The study was published in this week's online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Further research is needed to identify the precise DNA changes in PitX1 or other genes that led to these evolutionary changes, the researchers said.

More information

Arizona State University has more about human evolution.

SOURCE: Stanford University, news release, August 2006
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