Smooth Criminal: Tardigrade genome is full of foreign DNA

Meet the tardigrade, an extreme gene machine. Credit: Sinclair Stammers
Meet the tardigrade, an extreme gene machine. Credit: Sinclair Stammers

Tardigrades (also known as water bears or moss piglets) may be microscopic, but they’re pretty darn tough. Not only can they can survive the extreme environment of outer space, but they can also steal DNA from “foreign” sources, according to new research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC).

After sequencing the genome of the nearly indestructible tardigrade, UNC researchers found something quite unexpected: they get a huge chunk of their genome – nearly one-sixth or 17.5 percent – from foreign DNA.

“We had no idea that an animal genome could be composed of so much foreign DNA,” said co-author Bob Goldstein, faculty in the biology department in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences. “We knew many animals acquire foreign genes, but we had no idea that it happens to this degree.”

Full article available here.

Personal Note: For some reason while I was writing this article, I kept hearing “Don’t be tardy to the party” in my head.

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