Snail express


CONE snails have the world’s fastest evolving genes, according to researchers at Harvard University. The predatory snails pack hundreds of neurotoxins into a venom that kills fish, worms and other snails. Thomas Duda and Stephen Palumbi examined how quickly two snail species, Conus abbreviatus and Conus lividus, developed new toxins since they diverged 10 million years ago. They found that at least 1.7 per cent of the snail’s toxin-producing genes change every one million years—a rate five times as fast as the fastest-evolving mammalian genes (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol 96, p 6820). An “arms race” between the snails and their diverse prey drives this evolution,
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