Jumping DNA and the Evolution of Pregnancy

About a decade ago, Vincent Lynch emailed Frank Grutzner to ask for a tissue sample from a pregnant platypus. He got a polite brush-off instead.

Then, around eight years later, Grutzner got back in touch. His team had collected tissues from a platypus that had been killed by someone’s dog. They had some uterus. Did Lynch still want some?

“Hell yes!”

The platypus was the final critical part of a project that Lynch, now at the University of Chicago, had longed to do since he was a graduate student. He wanted to study the evolution of pregnancy in mammals, and specifically the genetic changes that transformed egg-laying creatures (like platypuses) ...

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