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First lizard genome fully sequenced

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Sept. 2 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say they've completed sequencing the first lizard genome, shedding light on aspects of vertebrate evolution.

Scientists at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard say the full sequencing of the genome of the green anole lizard may offer insights into how the genomes of humans, mammals, and their reptilian counterparts have evolved since mammals and reptiles parted ways 320 million years ago.

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Researchers have assembled and analyzed more than 20 mammalian genomes but the genetic landscape of reptiles remains relatively unexplored, a Broad release said Friday.

"Sometimes you need to be at a certain distance in order to learn about how the human genome evolved," Jessica Alfoldi, a research scientist in the vertebrate genome biology group at institute, said. "You have to look out further than you were looking previously."

Lizards are more closely related to birds -- which are also reptiles -- than to any of the other organisms whose genomes have been sequenced in full, the researchers said.

"People have been sequencing animals from different parts of the vertebrate tree, but lizards had not been previously sampled," Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, scientific director of vertebrate genome biology at the institute, said. "This was an important branch to look at."

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