Manatee Genomics

We’ve told you about the manatees making their move from the southeastern United States to the northeast. We warned you that the sea cows ain’t as dumb as you thought they were. We took you inside their training camps. We showed you the future of the manatees.

But now, thanks to a patriotic group of researchers, we have information on the organization of the manatee genome — an important first step in preventing the manatee invasion. The researchers, from the University of Florida and the National Cancer Institute, conclude that the closest living relatives of the manatees, dugongs, and Stellar’s sea cow are the elephants. Until they prove otherwise, we can assume the elephants are in cahoots with the manatees, harboring, aiding, and abetting their marine cousins.

The great Americans who published this study of manatee genomics can be further touted in all sorts of flag waving revelry because they have published their findings in an open access journal. This research — of utmost national security — is freely available to any person interested in learning about the greatest threat to our domestic security. But their patriotism is only equaled by their poor understanding of evolutionary biology:

Sirenia (manatees, dugongs and Stellar’s sea cow) have no evolutionary relationship with other marine mammals, despite similarities in adaptations and body shape.

Ouch! All mammals (and all animals, and all life) share some evolutionary relationship. Nothing shares “no evolutionary relationship”. It’s not an issue of being related (all life is related), but of the closeness of those relationships. Let’s hope NCI big wig and evolutionary geneticist Stephen O’Brien had nothing to do with this butchering of evolutionary biology.