This tiny sea anemone is a very simple lifeform whose glowing yellow mouth is its most prominent feature. But when bio geeks at UC Berkeley sequenced the anemone's genome last year, they discovered that it had roughly the same number of genes that humans have. Plus, many of those genes are dormant duplicates of human ones. Does this mean that if we activated those genes, an anemone could grow a human body?
Mark Martindale, a researcher who worked on the anemone genome project, said:
It turns out . . . [anemones] have roughly the same genes as humans, but they don't have cell types, organs, lung and pancreas, and limbs and brains. Yet they have all the genes in the genome used to generate those structures in vertebrates.
Hmmm, that could mean yes. If we had the technology to switch those unexpressed genes on. Which we don't.
Anemones have about 18,000 genes, while humans have about 20-25 thousand genes in our genome. That makes humans and anemones a lot more gene-packed than some insects (fruitflies have 13,379 genes) and a lot less than some plants (rice have 37,544 genes). Photo by Nicholas Putnam/UC Berkeley.
Genetically, sea anemone has human complexity [Star Bulletin]
Anemone genome gives new view of multi-celled ancestors [UC Berkeley]