Talk­a­tive parrot’s genome de­codes longevity, cog­ni­tion

The Asian Age - - Science + Health - Oth­er­worldly,

Wash­ing­ton, Dec. 8: Sci­en­tists have se­quenced the genome of the blue­fronted Ama­zon parrot, un­veil­ing new in­sights into longevity and highly de­vel­oped cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties that give the talk­a­tive birds so much in com­mon with hu­mans.

The first com­par­a­tive study of parrot genome by re­searchers from the Carnegie Mel­lon Univer­sity in the US will also pro­vide clues about how par­rots learn to vo­calise so well.

By com­par­ing the blue­fronted Ama­zon with 30 other long- and short- lived birds — in­clud­ing four ad­di­tional parrot species — the re­searchers iden­ti­fied a suite of genes pre­vi­ously not known to play a role in longevity.

They also iden­ti­fied genes as­so­ci­ated with longevity in fruit flies and worms.

“In many cases, this is the first time we’ve con­nected those genes to longevity in ver­te­brates,” said Mor­gan Wirth­lin, a post- doc­toral fel­low.

Par­rots are known to live up to 90 years in cap­tiv­ity — a life­span that would be equiv­a­lent to hun­dreds of years for hu­mans, Wirth­lin said.

The genes in­clude telom­erase, re­spon­si­ble for DNA re­pair of telom­eres, which are known to shorten with age.

Changes in these DNA genes can turn cells ma­lig­nant. re­searchers have found ev­i­dence that changes in the re­pair genes of birds ap­pear to be bal­anced.

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