There are several genetic mechanisms that enable animals to adapt to hotter, desert-like environments and exist without water, according to researchers. This is critical not only for their survival but also for developing gene therapies to treat dehydration-related illnesses in humans, such as kidney disease.

Evolution
(Photo : Dr. Guojie Zhang from the University of Copenhagen)

Adapting to Changes

Teasing Behavior in Apes: Human Toddlers, and Infants May Improve Our Understanding of Evolution and Humor
(Photo : Pixabay)

Adapting to new environments would be crucial for the long-term survival of most ecosystems as climate change tends to raise temperatures, increase drier conditions, and alter precipitation patterns. According to researchers at the University of New Hampshire, more than one genetic pathway allows animals to adapt to survive in colder, desert-like environments and exist without water. This is critical not only for their survival but also for developing gene therapies to treat dehydration-related illnesses in humans, such as kidney disease.

"It teaches us that there is more than one way to bake a cake," Jocelyn Colella, a postdoctoral researcher in evolutionary biology, said. "In other words, animals will respond to desert conditions in a variety of ways, and learning this genetic diversity is a silver lining for all creatures that would be required to acclimate to hotter, drier environments."

Comparing Genetic Processes

The Evolution of Large Bird Brains
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

Researchers compared the genetic processes of three populations of mice living in warm and dry environments: cactus and canyon mice, both mainly found in desert settings, and the North American deer mouse, which can also be found in warmer, wetter conditions in the northern United States, in a review recently conducted in the Journal of Heredity.

Related genes in each animal, the researchers proposed, will be crucial for survival in desert ecosystems. They discovered that each species employed a different system, i.e., genes and functions that allowed for the same adaptation. One species evolved over time to mutational genetic modifications, while another used gene expression changes, which may happen more rapidly and could be the more effective evolutionary path.

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Genetic Adaptation

Small Bird Wading in Water (IMAGE)
(Photo : Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research)

"We were delighted by the results because if our study had just discovered one gene that was crucial to adaptation to colder, drier climates, it would mean that it would be difficult for other species to react to climate change," Colella said.

The results may also be helpful in scientific science for the development of gene therapy for human kidney disease.

Evolutionary Features

Mice
(Photo : sibya on Pixabay)

"Since mice and humans are physiologically alike, this form of evolutionary study provides crucial first steps toward discovering and understanding genes that regulate complex traits like dehydration, which can weaken human kidneys and cause lifelong, irreversible harm," said Matt MacManes, associate professor of the genome, activated biology.

Millions of people die each year from dehydration-related illnesses all over the world. Even mild dehydration, according to experts, will damage the kidneys and cause long-term problems.

The National Institute of Health's National Institute of General Medical Sciences supported M.D.M.'s research (1R35GM128843).

Also Read: New Study: Prehistoric Fishes Had Limbs and Developed Lungs, Similar to Humans

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