Rodent's genome reveals secrets of surviving underground
Blind mole-rats aren’t exactly lookers. But the long-lived subterranean rodents do have other charms, including pronounced abilities to fight cancer (SN: 12/15/12, p. 12) and withstand low levels of oxygen and high levels of carbon dioxide.
Now, an international group of researchers has compiled the animal’s genetic instruction book, giving a glimpse into how the rodents perform these feats. The genome of the blind mole-rat, Spalax galili contains more than 22,000 genes, the team reports June 3 in Nature Communications. That’s about the same number of genes as humans have.
The eyeless rodent’s genome contains 259 defunct genes, including 22 involved in building the eye, constructing other parts of the visual system or processing visual signals. But the animals have doubled