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“The sea urchin is very much like us”

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Purple sea urchin (Image: Charles Krebs)

Analysis of the genome of the California purple sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) has revealed many genes previously thought unique to vertebrates, along with an innovative immune system (which may be one reason they live 100 years or more) and a surprising array of sensory proteins.

The genetic ties to humans are closer than anticipated. Of the sea urchin’s 23,300 genes, it shares 7077 with humans – making it a closer genetic cousin of humans than the worm or fruit fly.