Rodent’s large feet reveal novel pathways and genes for bone growth
Jerboas are desert rodents known for their jumping abilities and large feet. The evolution from their mice ancestors was a mystery until recently. Alliance faculty Kimberly Cooper and colleagues have identified 1755 potential genes, as well as novel growth mechanisms, underlying the evolution of jerboas’ large feet and provided a framework to understand the genetic control of skeletal growth and limb proportion.
Using a comparison of genes from jerboas’ arms, the researchers were able to filter out the non-feet-related genes to focus on the potential “big foot” genes and their complex interactions. They found some genes in the jerboas’ foot bones that had never been detected in other vertebrates. Shox2, a gene necessary for proximal limb elongation, is one example. As part of the Alliance, Cooper will continue to use this framework to understand the genetics behind skeletal growth and their impact on performance.
Listing image courtesy of Haydee Gutierrez
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