Pask, Andrew J. Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut.
- Sequencing the kangaroo genome
- Smell genes
- Immune genes
- Body plan genes
- Reproduction genes
- Lactation genes
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
The tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii) [Fig. 1] is a small member of the kangaroo family that has become an important emerging model system for understanding many aspects of mammalian biology. Its utility in scientific research is the reason why this specific marsupial species was chosen for detailed genome sequencing. Marsupials are true mammals, possessing fur and producing milk to nourish their young. However, they differ from the other groups of mammals [monotremes, such as the platypus; and eutherians, which include all mammals except monotremes and marsupials (for example, humans, elephants, whales, and bats)] because of their unique mode of reproduction. Marsupials give birth to very small and underdeveloped young, similar to the early fetal stages in eutherians. These young then complete the majority of their growth and development attached to a teat in the adult female's pouch. It is this alternative mode of reproduction that has made them extremely useful for the study of mammalian development. Specifically, because the young are in a pouch, they are easy to observe and experimentally manipulate throughout development. Marsupials also occupy a unique evolutionary niche because they have been evolving independently from eutherian mammals for approximately 160 million years (Fig. 2). This evolutionary distance enables the marsupial genome to be an exceptionally powerful tool for understanding the human genome and the critical components that define a mammal.
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