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Picture of the Day

Unisexual salamander evolution: A long, strange trip

The reproductive history of the unisexual, ladies-only salamander species is full of evolutionary surprises. In a new study, a team of National Science Foundation-funded researchers traced the animals' genetic history back 3.4 million years and found some head-scratching details -- primarily that they seem to have gone for millions of years without any DNA contributions from male salamanders and still have managed to persist. Using newly available technologies and a novel and complex approach to sequence and evaluate about 100 DNA samples from the salamanders, the researchers developed a genetic blueprint for what unfolded in the last 3.4 million years. The researchers said it's possible that this research could inform other areas of study, including plant science, because many plants are -- like the unisexual salamanders -- polyploid organisms. That means that they have more than two sets of chromosomes.

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