Scientists from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) have released a study that outlines a database of genomes that includes the corn snake, a species that is becoming more important in understanding the evolution of reptiles, according to the press release.
Exploring each specific gene – from those responsible for lost limbs to skin recolorations – helps scientists understand the genetic mechanisms behind evolutionary traits.
"Our aim was to produce ourselves a substantial portion of the missing data by sequencing all genes from several reptilian species," said Athanasia Tzika, who helped created the database. "To reach this goal, we used tissues, such as the brain and the kidney, expressing the largest number of genes."
Using this information, the scientists were able to pinpoint the mutation that leads to albinism in corn snakes.
"Thanks to that large amount of sequencing data, we identified the malfunctioning gene," said Michel Milinkovitch, a professor from UNIGE.
The database can be accessed freely and Tzika hopes scientists and researchers from around the world will use it to further our understanding of the development and evolution of vertebrates, especially reptiles.
"The objective was to obtain a genuine reptilian genomic model that people could rely on," said Tzika. "Here, we covered about 85% of the snake total genome size".
The next step for UNIGE researchers is to explore the origin of the strongly modified color patterns in some mutant corn snakes.