Eckhart, a researcher in the Department of Dermatology at the Medical University of Vienna, and his team built their research upon prior work by the Broad Institute in Boston, which unraveled the complete genome of the green anole lizard, a popular terrarium reptile.
Eckhart believes hair dates back to the claws of unknown reptiles that lived more than 300 million years ago during the Paleozoic era, which the contrary to popular belief that hair first appeared in mammals.
During the study, genomes of humans, chickens and green anole lizards were compared. Six different genes for hair keratin, the protein for mammal hair, was found in lizards. Even more significantly, the genes were strongly expressed in the lizard’s toes, suggesting that the first hair genes played a role in claw formation.
“At least two of these hair protein keratins are formed in the growth zones of the claws,” The National Geographic quoted Eckhart, as saying. The chicken genome revealed a single hair gene, however, its unclear what that gene is for, if anything.
The study indicated that modern birds, reptiles, and mammals-as well as dinosaurs-shared an early common ancestor that had claws built from hair keratin. Eckhart said “actually, it may be more appropriate to call these proteins claw keratins, which later acquired an additional role in hair,”
Eckhart believes that hair evolution began with claw keratins that were later adapted to form scales, from which the earliest hairs then developed. The role of other four hair genes found in lizards is unclear. The scientists believe that they may be related to the growth of scales.
For more information refer to:The ScientistThe Scientist
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