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Sponge genes surprise

Primitive animals have untapped genetic potential

By
12:35pm, August 4, 2010

The common ancestor of all animals may have resembled a certain absorbent, yellow, porous someone who lives in a pineapple under the sea.

The evidence lies in the genes, not the pants.

A complete genetic catalog of the sponge Amphimedon queenslandica suggests that the first animals already had a complex kit of genetic tools at their disposal. Sponges harbor between 18,000 and 30,000 genes — roughly the same number as humans, fruit flies, roundworms and other animals, an international team of researchers reports in the Aug. 5 Nature.

Comparison of the sponge’s genetic blueprints with those of other animals reveals that sponge genes are lined up in

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