Male and female of common house spider

An article published in the journal “BMC Biology” describes a genetic research that shows a whole genome duplication (WGD) during the evolution of arachnids. An international team of researchers in collaboration with the Human Genome Sequencing Center at Baylor College of Medicine analyzed the DNA of the common house spider (Parasteatoda tepidariorum) and the Arizona bark scorpion, Centruroides sculpturatus, concluding that they descended from a common ancestor that lived more than 450 million years ago.

Artist's impression of the unknown hominin (Image courtesy Bob Wilder/University at Buffalo)

An article published in the journal “Molecular Biology and Evolution” describes a research that from a protein in human saliva showed that there were interbreedings between Homo sapiens and another unknown hominin species. A team of scientists conducted a study on the gene called MUC7, which encodes a mucin, a protein that determines some of the characteristics of human saliva and tracing its history found traces of these ancient interbreedings between hominins in Sub-Saharan Africa.

A cryo-electron microscope image of a CRISPR molecule (Image courtesy Liao lab/Harvard Medical School)

Two articles published in the journal “Cell” describe two different researches that are connected to one of the DNA modification systems known as CRISPR and especially the one known as CRISPR-Cas3. A team of scientists from Harvard Medical School and Cornell University generated an almost atomic-level snapshot of CRISPR revealing key steps in its operating mechanism. A team of scientists at the University of Texas at Austin and Cornell University took an important step towards the safety of medical applications of the CRISPR systems.

Cats buried in a 6000 year old pit in Hierakonpolis, Egypt (Photo courtesy Hierakonpolis Expedition. All rights reserved)

An article published in the journal “Nature Ecology & Evolution” describes a genetic research on wild and domestic, ancient and modern cats. A team of researchers from the Belgian University of Leuven and the Belgian Royal Institute of Natural Sciences led by the paleogeneticist Claudio Ottoni analyzed the DNA of over 200 cats found in archaeological sites in the Near East, Africa and Europe with an age between 100 and 9,000 years to conclude that they were domesticated in two main waves in the Near East and Egypt.

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.