Vertebrates evolved from sea to land, and had to go through many evolutionary genetic changes. A new Harvard study focuses on these genetic changes after turning lizard limbs into genitalia in the laboratory. The study states that the genitals originated in the limbs of lizards and snakes to an extent.

Human beings have just one sex organ each, whereas snakes and lizards have two each. The study was published in the Nature journal. The scientists from Harvard Medical School put in efforts to find out why snakes do not develop limbs.

“It demonstrates that there is a flexibility with what kind of cells can get recruited during development to form genitalia. In other words, by misplacing a molecular signal you can misguide these cells in their developmental trajectory,” said Dr. Patrick Tschopp, the lead author of the research project. The results shown in the study state that, in a sort of evolutionary twist, how genitals and limbs have a shared ancestry, and that, for snakes, lizards and other vertebrates alike, genital evolution was another adaptive measure vital for living on land.

The research team demonstrated that sex organs can be triggered to develop from the limbs or tail buds in snakes, lizards and mice, in laboratories by external means. They can be signalled of embryonic cells, which have all abilities to turn on and off genes. They could very effectively turn the lizard limbs into genitals, after giving a nudge.

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