By Ed Cara
The great white shark is impressively terrifying (though not actually much of a threat to humans). But a new study shows that the animal is also an impressive feat of evolution. For the first time, scientists say they’ve fully unspooled the genome of the great white, a discovery that will help us better understand why sharks are so good at warding off cancer and other age-related diseases—information that could someday help people do the same.
The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was a collaboration between researchers at many institutions, including the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, and the Nova Southeastern University (NSU) Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Research Center. After decoding the genome of the great white, they compared it to the genomes of a variety of other animals, including humans.
They found that the great white isn’t just gigantic physically (the larger female shark is around 15 feet long and weighs up to 5,000 pounds), but genetically, too: Its genome is about 50 percent larger than ours. And nestled within it are genes that could explain why they’re so durable and resilient, according to the researchers.
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