The new possible elephant family tree (Image courtesy Asier Larramendi Eskorza / Julie McMahon)

An article published in the journal “eLife” describes a genetic analysis on elephants based on genetic analysis of the three existing species and the straight-tusked elephant (Palaeoloxodon antiquus), which is extinct but sampling of DNA from its bones was accomplished. A team of researchers led by Matthias Meyer of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, proposes a new family tree for elephants different from the one currently used.

Scheme of the genetic research on birds (Image courtesy Koji Tamura (Tohoku University), Ryohei Seki (National Institute of Genetics), and Naoki Irie (University of Tokyo))

An article published in the journal “Nature Communications” describes a research showing a possible genetic mechanism that determined the evolution of birds from dinosaurs. A team of researchers from the Japanese Tohoku University that includes international collaborators provided what the scientists believe are evidence of the connection of certain genetic sequences to the evolution of bird traits such as feathers.

A Klosneuvirus seen with an electronic microscope (Image courtesy Schulz et al.)

An article published in the journal “Science” describes the identification of a new group of giant viruses that were called Klosneuviruses. A team of researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) and the University of Vienna believe that they evolved from normal-sized viruses acquiring genes from their host organisms growing abnormally for viruses.

Mertensia ovum, a species of ctenophores (Photo courtesy Arctic Exploration 2002, Kevin Raskoff, MBARI, NOAA/OER)

An article published in the journal “Nature Ecology & Evolution” offers an answer to the arguments about the most ancient group of animals appeared on Earth. According to a team of evolutionary biologists at Vanderbilt University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison ctenophores were the first animals and not sponges, as many believe. This conclusion was reached by comparing a set of genes of 18 branches of the living beings’ family tree using 6 of animals, plants and fungi as a control branches.

An article published in the journal “Cell” describes a research on cephalopods that revealed that in particular in the coleoids (Coleoidea) subclass that includes octopuses, squid and cuttlefish there can be an RNA editing that allows a better adaptation to the environment and in particular to cold. According to the researchers this mechanism comes at the expense of the evolution of DNA.