A fur coat is a feature that defines a mammal. But there always remain some exceptions; for them, bald means beautiful. These exceptional beings include dolphins, mole rats, elephants, and humans.
However, a new study on bald mammals concludes that all our ancestors had plenty of furs, and surprisingly enough, we do too! Our hairy genes have been turned off, so we don’t share the same furry look as other mammals.
A geneticist, Amanda Kowalczyk, from the University of Pittsburgh, and her team looked at approximately 20,000 coding genes. They also went through 350,000 regulatory genes and compared the genes across 62 different mammal species. Their hard work denoted the mechanism that facilitates such a parallel change compared to mammals.
Kowalczyk and her team also concluded that the genetic change of being hairless rose from mutations in a similar set of genes. Most of the mutation-gathering genes were connected to the structure of the hair. For instance, some genes encode keratin proteins. These are the genes responsible for ensuring consistent hair growth.
The hairless attribute adopted by humans evolved at least nine times independently throughout different branches of the mammalian family tree. Finding out a re-emergence of a trait throughout unconnected lineages is identified as convergent evolution.
The attribute of not having hair has different benefits and effects depending on the species. For example, the lack of hair allows elephants to cool down faster and lose heat. Similarly, marine mammals like dolphins face less water resistance due to a lack of hair when moving in the water. As for humans, there are plenty of benefits, including reducing parasites and thermoregulation.
The hairless mammals still retain the hairy genes; Nevertheless, it’s as if someone has toggled their regulation dials to “off” to stop the accumulation of this genetic effect.
The report published by eLife has more information to reveal on this research. This team of genetic researchers also identified some new hair-coding genes and many genes related to hair. The discovery of hairy genetics may prove crucial for people recovering lost hair due to chemotherapy, illnesses, or disorders.
Furthermore, this approach made by Amanda’s team could also be implied in various convergent evolution traits. The researchers have also aligned the computer-powered method to consider and deal with other medical conditions.
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