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Centipede startles scientists with its responses to evolutive threats

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The recently revealed genome of Strigamia maritima, one of those scary centipedes we found in our houses (more or less startled) shows how the evolution responds with alternative responses to threats and troubles.

Strigamia maritima

Centipedes are members of the arthropods, a group with numerous species including insects, spiders and other animals. Until now, the only class of arthropods not represented by a sequenced genome was the myriapods, which include centipedes and millipedes. For this study, the researchers sequenced the genome of the centipede Strigamia maritima, because its primitive features can help us understand more complex arthropods.

According to Chipman, the study found that despite being closely related to insects, the centipede lacks the olfactory gene family used by insects to smell the air, and thus developed its own air-sniffing ability by expanding other gene families not present in insects.

In addition, Chipman said, this specific group of centipedes live underground and have lost their eyes, together with almost all vision genes and genes involved in the body’s internal clock. They maintain enhanced sensory capabilities enabling them to recognize their environment and capture prey.

While early studies of genomics focused on humans, as sequencing equipment and expertise became more readily available, researchers expanded into animals directly relevant to human wellbeing. In the latest research, genomic sequencing has become more broad-based, investigating the workings of the world around us.

In explaining the purpose of the research, Hebrew University’s Chipman said: “If we have a better understanding of the biological world around us, how it operates, and how it came to be as it is, we will ultimately have a better understanding of ourselves.”

According to Chipman, the research will have applications for other researchers ranging from conservation to dealing with crop pests.

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