Lousy with chromosomes

Scientists have found an unprecedented evolutionary modification deep within the cells of the lowly human body louse (__Pediculus humanus__): the tiny blood sucker contains not one but 18 separate mitochondrial chromosomes.A female human body louse (__Pediculushumanus corporis__). Photo courtesy of Richard Webband Renfu Shao "It's a big surprise to me and my colleagues," wrote linkurl:Renfu Shao,;http://florey.biosci.uq.edu.au/mypa/academic/barker/china_research.htm#Mr%20Renfu%20Shao lead autho

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

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Mar 29, 2009
Scientists have found an unprecedented evolutionary modification deep within the cells of the lowly human body louse (__Pediculus humanus__): the tiny blood sucker contains not one but 18 separate mitochondrial chromosomes.
A female human body louse (__Pediculus
humanus corporis__).

Photo courtesy of Richard Webb
and Renfu Shao
"It's a big surprise to me and my colleagues," wrote linkurl:Renfu Shao,;http://florey.biosci.uq.edu.au/mypa/academic/barker/china_research.htm#Mr%20Renfu%20Shao lead author of the newly published __Genome Research__ paper describing the discovery, in an email to __The Scientist__. "Since the human mitochondrial genome was linkurl:sequenced;http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7219534?ordinalpos=82&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum in 1981, more than 1500 animals have been sequenced for complete mitochondrial genomes," he wrote. With the exception of some oddball ciliates, flagellates and cnidarians, virtually all animals have a single, circular mitochondrial chromosome that contains approximately 37 genes. "Thus, it has almost been taken for granted that any animals would have a single mitochondrial chromosome with all mitochondrial genes on it." linkurl:David Rand,;http://www.brown.edu/Departments/EEB/rand/index.htm a Brown...



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