Most Genes? A crustacean the size of a grain of rice

Posted on February 8, 2011  Comments (4)

photo of Daphnia, a crustacean

“Daphnia are ubiquitous in freshwater ponds and lakes and are often used to assess the health of ponds. Since the creature is so well studied by ecologists, knowing its genetics should reveal a lot about how genes respond to different environments.

The first scientists to describe Daphnia thought they were a kind of flea because they assumed the red color came from sucking blood as fleas do. It turns out they’re not bloodsuckers – they’re blood makers. Daphnia have genes that make hemoglobin, so when the animal is stressed out, those genes switch on and the animal looks red.

In fact Daphnia have an astonishingly large number of genes. “We count more than 31,000 genes,” says [John] Colbourne. By comparison, the human genome has more like 23,000 genes. If Guinness tracks such things, Daphnia would hold the record for the most genes of any animal studied to date.

“Many of those genes – we estimate around 35 percent of them – are brand new to science,”

Daphnia can grow its own spear and helmet when threatened by an attacker

Related: Our Genome Changes as We AgeAmazing Designs of LifeOne Species’ Genome Discovered Inside Another SpeciesBdelloid Rotifers Abandoned Sex 100 Million Years Ago

4 Responses to “Most Genes? A crustacean the size of a grain of rice”

  1. Anonymous
    February 8th, 2011 @ 7:44 am

    That creature wasn’t very efficiently coded then 🙂

  2. Melesio
    February 18th, 2011 @ 2:30 pm

    I never imagined that such a small creature could contain such a large number of genes. Wow! I believe that Maize is also another relatively simple-looking species that also contains more genes than we do (over 30,000 genes). But anyways, great blog.

  3. Anonymous
    March 10th, 2011 @ 12:38 pm

    That creature wasn’t very efficiently coded then

  4. Anonymous
    March 10th, 2011 @ 4:07 pm

    Wow I can’t believe when it’s stressed out the genes switch on and it looks red. Things like this are so amazing. Great post

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