I hope you all remember how Daphnias' head shape changes with temperature leading to them having dating issues, if Dr. Latto is to be believed. Well, they get even cooler. They have been found to have the largest number of genes of any animal known, 31,000 to our 23,000. So you ask, why does something the size of half a grain of rice need all these genes? Well, the answer is we don’t know yet. 35% of their genes are new to science. Some of them allow the Daphnia to make basically armor and a spear right on the spot. Others allow it to produce hemoglobin when stressed, making the creature look red, thus giving it the name “bloodsucker”. The best part is that we know a huge amount about the Daphnia’s environment and reactions to different things. This allows us to link their genes to events nature which can tell us a huge amount about gene expression and the need for certain genes. Thank you tiny crustacean, even if some of you are pointy headed.
If you want to listen to the story click here, or read a shorter version of it on the NPR website, which is a good place to look for interesting science stories anyway.