Today was an important day for natural-, evolution-, and genetic-studies. The first full-scale genetic sequence of a non-avian reptile was published today in Nature. The lucky species to serve as the first reptile to be studied in this way? The Carolina green anole, Anolis carolinensis, of the southeastern United States (yup, the lizard featured on this post).
The article is cited “The genome of the green anole lizard and a comparative analysis with birds and mammals” (http://www.nature.com/doifinder/10.1038/nature10390). From amniotic egg development to convergent evolution in Anolis lizards (a genus with hundreds of independent species), the information, material, and understanding that arises from a study such as this are indeed vast and deep — and not just within the world of lizards. Whereas one might think of publishing an article as an ending, in the scientific community it is merely a new beginning or a next step. This study answers many questions, but it will also provide clear direction for new questions and new inquiry in the immediate years to come.
To read more about this project –or about anoles in general– I highly recommend The Anole Annals (http://anoleannals.wordpress.com), a blog entirely devoted to and focused on All-Things-Anolis. For me, it’s the nexus of Anolis on the web. An amazingly rich and fun resource.
So, congratulations to all those involved in this study, from researchers to writers, from lab-techs to editors.
You might think they’d be collectively sighing and taking a break, but I like to think the energy is fever-high right now and most of them are itching to move forward and to research deeper (not to mention continuing to spread the Gospel of the Anolis Genome right now). Also: teaching classes. And going to meetings.
Personal kudos to Dr. Jonathan Losos of Harvard University for taking the time to answer so many of my questions about anoles and for his obvious delight in his profession. The enthusiasm is contagious!
On my end, my enthusiasm for anoles continues to grow — partially because I’m so damn happy to be back in Anole Country and partially because of everything going on in Anolis studies right now. You can bet I’ll be paying close attention to the Carolina greens in south Georgia (who seem to be hanging out closer to the ground than I’d expect). I’ll also be heading down to Florida from time to time to check out the non-native species and to observe (photograph) their immediate impact/competition with the locals. In fact, I’m heading down to Miami/Coral Gables this weekend. [To those who don't like the snake photos, but don't mind the lizards: next week you should be much, much happier.]
Photographs taken 31 August 2011 at Grand Bay Wildlife Management Area; Lowndes county, Georgia.