The New York Times: Genetic study suggests why humans no longer have tails

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A A new study suggests an ancient genetic change helps explain why apes and humans don’t have tails, while apes still do. A team of scientists claim to have identified the genetic mutation that contributed to the loss of the tail. When scientists made this genetic change in mice, some animals did not grow a tail, according to a study posted on a preprint server last week.

Over time, researchers have identified more than 30 genes involved in tail development in various species. Scientists are still learning how their unique activity at the end of an embryo gives rise to a tail. The authors of the new study estimated that our ancestors lost their tails when mutations changed one or more of these genes. To look for these mutations, the scientists compared the DNA of six species of tailless monkeys to nine species of tailed monkeys. Eventually, they discovered a mutation shared by monkeys and humans, but missing in monkeys, in a gene called TBXT.

“That question – where’s my tail?” – I’ve been in my head since I was a kid, ”says study author Bo Xia, a graduate student in stem cell biology at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. When he presented the discovery to his supervisors – Itai Yanai, PhD, director of the Institute for Computational Medicine, and Jef D. Boeke, PhD, director Sol and Judith Bergstein of the Institute for System Genetics – they both said, “I almost fell off my chair.

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