Wednesday, July 20, 2011

DNA from copulatory plugs can give insights into sexual selection

The authors use copulatory plugs to find out more about pre- and postcopulatory sexual selection in kangaroo rats. This is an interesting study on its own, but methods used might have some applications in primates as well.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A novel form of oxytocin in New World monkeys

And we thought we understood the nonapeptides...

The protein sequence and structure of oxytocin is widely thought to be conserved among Eutherian mammals. Curiously, these researchers found a nonsynonymous mutation in a handful of platyrrhines and tree shrews, changing a leucine to proline at position 8 in the signal peptide. Of the noncatarrhines sampled, owl monkeys, capuchins, marmosets, squirrel monkeys and tree shrews had the mutation, while titi monkeys didn't.

I took a quick look at OXT across a handful of mammals after reading this study and found that in that 9 protein sequence, mouse lemurs and tarsiers shared the conserved sequence, suggesting that this was indeed convergent in the platyrrhines and tree shrews. Unfortunately, without sequencing this region in atelines and pitheciines, we don't know if titi's lost the P8 mutation or if it never evolved in that clade.

In a nonprimate note, it seems like elephants have protein changes at positions 3 and 4.

This is an exciting find and it will be very interesting to see what researchers are able to find out about the functional and evolutionary significance of these mutations.

Female bonobos use copulation calls as social signals

Everything you've ever wanted to know about bonobo pillow talk?

To be a bit more serious, it's an interesting study, but I think this might be one of those statistical vs. biological significance issues.

African Genomes

This popular piece takes a look at the unfortunate genomic situation in which we find ourselves: Africa is home to most of the world's genetic diversity as well as heaviest and most diverse disease burdens, yet most genomic sequencing efforts have focused on Europeans and North Americans. Two African-based genomics consortia are discussed - and both seem to be worth following in the future, especially with the idea of genomic sovereignty gaining ground in many parts of the world. This small group of sequencing centers may be where we have to look for any/all African genomic data in the future.