In 2017, researchers from the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Systematics in Cambridge, England, used the latest DNA-sequencing technology to create a “branch of biology” based on a common gene.
The team used the genealogy to develop the branch of biology called conservation biology.
“By combining genetic sequences with the information on the environment in the tree, you can make predictions about the environmental conditions that might affect the genes that are in a tree and how those genes may be related to one another,” said Matthew Rimmer, the lead author of the paper published in the journal Science Advances.
“For example, a tree might have one tree gene, which has two alleles, and the other tree gene has one allele and a different allele, and it’s a good match.”
The team of researchers included Rimmer and colleagues from the Harvard University, the University in Vienna, the United Kingdom and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.
The project also included researchers from Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.
“The branch of conservation biology project was part of an ongoing work by the Centre for Evolution and Systemsatics to develop a branch of biological science based on genomic data,” said Daniel Boudreau, a postdoctoral researcher at the University at Buffalo and a member of the Cambridge team.
“Our hope is that it will be useful for other biologists working on conservation biology who are interested in studying how the tree might be related.”
The work was done to help scientists understand the structure and dynamics of the human genome, Boudares added.
“Geneticists are able to study the evolution of human genes and how they affect the human population through genetic studies,” he said.
“If we can study the genome as a whole, it opens up new perspectives for geneticists and could be used to study many aspects of biodiversity.”
Conservation biology is the branch within biology where biologists look at how genes affect the environment.
This research can help biologists better understand the complex interactions between genes, such as the link between the genes for the immune system and the genes of the brain, he said, and how this interaction affects the behavior of animals.
The work also may help scientists to better understand how genes are passed down from generation to generation.
“This is one area where the tree is a bit like a genealogical tree,” said Rimmer.
“You can get information on all the branches from the tree of life.”