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Genome of Dragons

Researchers have sequenced the genomes of two Komodo dragons living at Zoo Atlanta to tease out genetic adaptations that enable it to move long distances, the International Business Times reports. Reptiles, it notes, typically lack aerobic capacity and become tired after physical exertion, but Komodo dragons can ramp up their metabolisms to near-mammalian levels.

A Gladstone Institutes-led team sequenced the genome of the Komodo dragon, Varanus komodoensis, using a combination of long-range sequencing and single-molecule optical mapping and compared it to the genomes of related species. As they report in Nature Ecology & Evolution this week, the researchers uncovered evidence of selection on pathways related to energy metabolism, cardiovascular homeostasis, and hemostasis within the Komodo dragon genome.

"Our study showed us that the secret is in these mitochondrial adaptations to increase their cardiac output," Zoo Atlanta's Joseph Mendelson says in a statement. "This gives us an understanding of how these animals are able to do what we had been observing."

The researchers also uncovered a high number of vomeronasal chemosensory receptor genes in the Komodo dragon, which they say could enable it to detect its prey over long distances, as well as an adaptation that makes it immune to its own venom anticoagulant.

The Scan

Cancer Survival Linked to Mutational Burden in Pan-Cancer Analysis

A pan-cancer paper appearing in JCO Precision Oncology suggests tumor mutation patterns provide clues for predicting cancer survival that are independent of other prognostic factors.

Australian Survey Points to Public Support for Genetic Risk Disclosure in Relatives of At-Risk Individuals

A survey in the European Journal of Human Genetics suggests most adult Australians are in favor of finding out if a relative tests positive for a medically actionable genetic variant.

Study Links Evolution of Stony Coral Skeleton to Bicarbonate Transporter Gene

A PNAS paper focuses on a skeleton-related bicarbonate transporter gene introduced to stony coral ancestors by tandem duplication.

Hormone-Based Gene Therapy to Sterilize Domestic Cat

A new paper in Nature Communication suggests that gene therapy could be a safer alternative to spaying domestic cats.