The article discusses how Peterson’s work on micro RNAs (miRNAs)—short regulatory molecules found in cells—has upended some long-held notions about the evolutionary history of mammals and their relationships today. When miRNAs appears in an animal’s ancestral lineage, they are rarely lost but accumulate over time. This makes miRNAs an important tool in discerning relationships and solving evolutionary puzzles.
Peterson tells Nature, “I’ve looked at thousands of micro RNA genes, and I can’t find a single example that would support the traditional tree.” The technique, he adds, “just changes everything about our understanding of mammal evolution.”
The article notes Peterson’s previous research collaboration with Lorenzo Sempere, Geisel ’04, currently a research assistant professor of medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
Read the full story, published on 6/27/12 by Nature.
Watch video of Peterson discussing how micro RNA helps paleontologists understand evolutionary pattern and processes here: