Toward Understanding the Natural History of Genomes
Genome size varies widely among different organisms, and is not very closely correlated with complexity of the organism. In species with large genomes, most of the DNA does not code for genes. This chapter explores the “selfish DNA” hypothesis for genome size. It also discusses vertebrate cases of small genome size (e.g., pufferfish) and extraordinarily large genome size (e.g., species of salamanders). A consequence of the huge genome in these salamanders is that their brains are less complex. Michael Lynch has proposed that much of the variation in genome size may be explained by variation in effective population size. The chapter concludes with a discussion of how genome size may be related to extinction risk and hence, conservation biology.
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