Molecular decay of the tooth gene enamelin (ENAM) mirrors the loss of enamel in the fossil record of placental mammals

Robert W. Meredith, John Gatesy, William J. Murphy, Oliver A. Ryder, Mark S. Springer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

81 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Vestigial structures occur at both the anatomical and molecular levels, but studies documenting the co-occurrence of morphological degeneration in the fossil record and molecular decay in the genome are rare. Here, we use morphology, the fossil record, and phylogenetics to predict the occurrence of "molecular fossils" of the enamelin (ENAM) gene in four different orders of placental mammals (Tubulidentata, Pholidota, Cetacea, Xenarthra) with toothless and/or enamelless taxa. Our results support the "molecular fossil" hypothesis and demonstrate the occurrence of frameshift mutations and/or stop codons in all toothless and enamelless taxa. We then use a novel method based on selection intensity estimates for codons (v) to calculate the timing of iterated enamel loss in the fossil record of aardvarks and pangolins, and further show that the molecular evolutionary history of ENAM predicts the occurrence of enamel in basal representatives of Xenarthra (sloths, anteaters, armadillos) even though frameshift mutations are ubiquitous in ENAM sequences of living xenarthrans. The molecular decay of ENAM parallels the morphological degeneration of enamel in the fossil record of placental mammals and provides manifest evidence for the predictive power of Darwin's theory.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1000634
JournalPLoS Genetics
Volume5
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2009

Fingerprint

Xenarthra
enamel
Dental Enamel
fossil record
tooth
Mammals
Tooth
teeth
mammal
fossils
deterioration
mammals
Frameshift Mutation
gene
Pholidota (mammals)
Genes
frameshift mutation
mutation
Cetacea
Sloths

Cite this

Meredith, Robert W. ; Gatesy, John ; Murphy, William J. ; Ryder, Oliver A. ; Springer, Mark S. / Molecular decay of the tooth gene enamelin (ENAM) mirrors the loss of enamel in the fossil record of placental mammals. In: PLoS Genetics. 2009 ; Vol. 5, No. 9.
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Molecular decay of the tooth gene enamelin (ENAM) mirrors the loss of enamel in the fossil record of placental mammals. / Meredith, Robert W.; Gatesy, John; Murphy, William J.; Ryder, Oliver A.; Springer, Mark S.

In: PLoS Genetics, Vol. 5, No. 9, e1000634, 09.2009.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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