Now we can add Western painted turtles (Chrysemys picta bellii) to the list of species to have their genome sequenced. The goal of sequencing their genome was to try to find genes that control the ability of these animals to survive freezing solid during the winter. Because they are not able to breathe while frozen, researchers wanted to know if any genes help make the animals more tolerant of these anoxic (without oxygen) conditions.
What they discovered were genes in the brain and heart (19 and 23 genes, respectively) that become activated in conditions of low oxygen, or hypoxia. Since humans also have these genes, this research may be useful in studying how to prevent damage from low oxygen conditions or poor circulation in humans.
Very cool research indeed!
Abramyan J, et al., The western painted turtle genome, a model for the evolution of extreme physiological adaptations in a slowly evolving lineage. Genome Biology. 14:R28, 2013. doi: 10.1186/gb-2013-14-3-r28