Without an odd genetic mutation in something called a lancelet, you might not have that prized backbone
The human body is a pretty complex and marvelous thing. After all, have you really looked at how weird your fingers are? And our spine — what's up with that thing? According to a scientific study of human proteins conducted by the University of Dundee, that prized backbone of yours is the result of a 500-million-year-old genetic mistake.
According to study co-author Carol MacKintosh, "Organisms that reproduce sexually usually have two copies of their entire genome, one inherited from each of the two parents. What happened over 500 million years ago is that this process 'went wrong' in an invertebrate animal, which somehow inherited twice the usual number of genes. In a later generation, the fault recurred, doubling the number of copies of each gene once again."
The first animal to contain that gene duplication is unknown for certain, but scientists believe they have a possible culprit. Take away the two rounds of duplication, and our gene structure looks an awful lot like that of the lancelet, an aquatic invertebrate.
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