Sunday, March 23, 2008

Fastest Evolving Animal

This is New Zealand's "living dinosaur" known as the tuatara. This creature is the only surviving member of a reptilian order Sphehodontia that lived with early dinosaurs and separated from other reptiles 200 million years ago in the Upper Triassic period.

A recent study by Professor David Lambert and his team from the Allan Wilson Center for Molecular Ecology and Evolution, examined DNA sequences from 8000 year old bones of ancient tuatara. Although the tuatara have remained physically unchanged over long periods of evolution, they are evolving at a DNA level faster than any other animal examined.

The tuatara rate is significantly faster than for animals including the cave bear, lion, ox and horse. Professor Lambert said: "What we found is that the tuatara has the highest molecular evolutionary rate that anyone has measured."

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