Using molecular markers to study the formation of skeletal cartilage in embryos of the spotted catshark, UF scientists isolated and tracked the activity of Hox genes, a group of genes that control how and where body parts develop in all animals, including people.Now admittedly, this is not genomics here - but the press release just had to use genomics in the title so my automated google search for "genome" and "evolution" picked it up. So - why do they get the overselling award? Read more in the press release:
The finding shows what was thought to be a relatively recent evolutionary innovation existed eons earlier than previously believed, shedding light on how life on Earth developed and potentially providing insight for scientists seeking ways to cure human birth defects, which affect about 150,000 infants annually in the United States.Yes that is right, this genome-ish gene expression study in sharks is going to help cure human birth defects (note the paper in PLoS One seems entirely reasonable ... this is another case of press releases being disconnected from the science - and is another reason to support OA publications because here you can actually all go and read the paper and ignore the press release).
In addition, the press release says
“We’ve uncovered a surprising degree of genetic complexity in place at an early point in the evolution of appendages,” said developmental biologist Martin Cohn, Ph.D., an associate professor with the UF departments of zoology and anatomy and cell biology and a member of the UF Genetics Institute. “Genetic processes were not simple in early aquatic vertebrates only to become more complex as the animals adapted to terrestrial living. They were complex from the outset. Some major evolutionary innovations, like digits at the end of limbs, may have been achieved by prolonging the activity of a genetic program that existed in a common ancestor of sharks and bony fishes.”Now I accept that the specific details of Hox gene expression here might have been surprising but what friggin evolution textbook are these people reading if they are surprised that there is not a chain of life going from less complex to the pinnacle of complexity in humans? Hopefully not mine.