Corals: "More evolved" than humans?
Scientists at the ARC coral reef research center in Australia have been sequencing the coral reef genome and so far have found 10,000 genes, and still have a "long way to go" until they finish, predicting the coral to have between 20 and 25 thousand genes. Humans have around 23,000.
The scientists are miffed as to why such simple creatures would have such a large genome. However, since corals are near the root of the tree of life studying their genes could shed light on the functioning and development of complex features in vertebrates such as the immune system. Some of the sequences shared with vertebrates have to do with stress and immune responses.
This research could also help scientists understand the immune response of the coral, in its relation to that of vertebrates, since human and coral gene similarity suggests that they may function in similar ways. This knowledge of the immune system could help in development or ways of planning to protect the coral.
The coral genome is also shedding a new light on evolution. Animals shed genes during evolution; corals, however, take as long as 5 years to reach sexual maturity, and thus the rate of turnover is very low. Thus, coral could possibly be a "living museum of ancestral animal genes."
Here is the link to the article.
Also, here is my book review at Amazon for Aydon's Charles Darwin.