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Sea squirt's DNA makes a splash

From Boston, Mass., at the Genome Sequencing and Analysis conference

To examine how animals with backbones arose, U.S. and Japanese biologists have sequenced nearly all the DNA of Ciona intestinalis, a sea squirt.

Adult sea squirts consist largely of two connected tubes. Stuck to the ocean floor or to rocks, they suck in ocean water, from which they obtain nutrients before squirting the water back out. Despite this unassuming life, sea squirts have a unique suite of traits that has drawn the interest of evolutionary biologists.

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