A new study led by an Iowa State University scientist sheds light on how organisms have evolved to address imbalances in sex chromosomes. The study looks at a species of softshell turtle, but the results could help to illuminate an important evolutionary process in many species. The research centers on a process known as sex chromosome dosage compensation.
In previously unstudied gopher tortoise aggregations, researchers found that overall, 42.9 percent had circulating antibodies to an infectious bacterium that causes upper respiratory tract disease. Physical examination showed that 19.8 percent had clinical signs consistent with upper respiratory tract disease and 13.2 percent had some form of physical abnormality. None of the tortoises tested positive for Ranavirus or Herpesvirus, which represents important baseline data, since these viruses are thought to be emerging pathogens of other tortoise and turtle species.
Scientists are racing to determine which genealogy most accurately represents the evolutionary history of sea turtles — a challenging proposition.