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Water bears’ genetic borrowing questioned

A new analysis finds bacterial DNA in the tardigrade genome is mostly contamination

3:55pm, December 8, 2015

WHAT’S IN A WATER BEAR?  A new study may deflate claims that water bears, technically called tardigrades, incorporate many genes from other organisms into their DNA.

Water bears may not be champion gene borrowers after all, a new analysis suggests.

Researchers in Scotland and colleagues say foreign genes may account for less than 1 percent of the genome of the famously hardy critters, technically known as tardigrades (Hypsibius dujardini). That result, reported in a paper posted online December 1 at BioRxiv.org, directly contradicts a previous study concluding that tardigrades got about 17 percent of their genes from bacteria and other organisms. The earlier study, led by Bob Goldstein at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was published November 23 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (SN Online: 11/25/15).

When researchers in evolutionary biologist Mark Blaxter’s lab at the University of

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