Why do some mammals have an excellent sense of smell, others hibernate, and others, including humans, are predisposed to disease?

An international research project analyzed the genomes of 240 different mammals in order to provide answers to the above and other questions.

The results of the Zoonomia program are published in eleven articles in the journal Science.

The research, which involves more than 50 different institutions and 150 scientists worldwide, provides a large amount of information about the function and development of the genomes of mammals, including endangered species, over an evolutionary period of 100 million years.

This analysis shows, among other things, which genetic changes have led to specific traits in different species and which mutations can cause diseases. Understanding the genetic diversity of species can provide insights not only into human evolutionary history, but also into human health.

Genes that are conserved across many species may indicate those that are essential for normal function and therefore may lead to disease when mutated.

By conducting a detailed survey and systematic comparison of the genomes, the researchers identified regions of the human genome with functions that had not been previously determined.

Mutations in them may play an important role in the origin of diseases or in the particular characteristics of mammalian species. The findings further revealed genetic variants that likely play a role in rare and common diseases, including cancer.

They also identified parts of the human genome that have remained unchanged after millions of years of evolution, providing information that can shed light on human health and disease, but also genetic sequences that, while found in the genomes of most other mammalian species, have disappeared in humans .

Some of these deleted pieces of genetic information are closely related to genes involved in cognitive and neuronal functions. But as the researchers explain, rather than disrupting human biology, some of these deletions created new genetic coding, which eliminated elements that would normally turn genes off.