Pet turtles are becoming increasingly rare and endangered in the wild, and the new research is shedding light on their evolutionary past.
The pet turtle, or karst-egym, is a member of the order Cyprinidae.
While its relatives live in the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia, it lives in temperate and tropical forests in North America and Europe.
Researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and Wageningen University in the Netherlands examined the pet turtles DNA in their fossil record to discover how they survived over hundreds of thousands of years in their habitats.
The researchers believe that they could have been adapted to the harsh tropical conditions of tropical rainforest forests, where they are found, through breeding and selective breeding, by using different adaptations to their environments.
“Pet turtles can survive in extreme heat and cold, with water temperatures between minus 10 and minus 30 degrees Celsius, which is almost twice as cold as in the temperate rainforest environment,” said Dr Jennifer Kesselheim from UNSW’s School of Biological Sciences.
“Their skin is very thick and they have a long, flexible shell that is extremely strong and strong-looking,” she said.
“The shells of most turtle species are a mixture of keratin, collagen, and bone.
Keratin is a kind of insulation that makes the shells stronger and allows them to endure the extreme cold.
When the keratin has been broken down, it can form hard plates called keratin plates.”
These plates can act as an insulation, making the turtle more resilient to the extreme heat that occurs in tropical rain forests.””
The new research has important implications for understanding how evolution works in the animal kingdom, said Professor David Gollan from Wageningens University. “
The shell of a pet turtle can withstand up to four times the maximum possible temperatures in tropical forests, but they don’t always survive that far.”
The new research has important implications for understanding how evolution works in the animal kingdom, said Professor David Gollan from Wageningens University.
He said it’s important to understand the evolution of species and the processes that allow evolution to take place.
“[The study] really gives us a new understanding of how evolution is happening,” he said.
In the latest paper, Dr Kesselheimer and colleagues found that, among other adaptations, the turtle’s DNA contains genes for keratin proteins that protect it from the harsh conditions of their tropical rain forest habitat.
“Our findings are significant because it’s one of the first direct evidence that keratin is necessary for turtles to survive in their tropical habitat,” Dr Kessheim said.
“Keratins have been identified in many other animals, including many mammals and birds, but it is the first time that we’ve found a keratin gene in the pet turtle.”
“This is a really exciting result because it confirms the importance of keratins in turtles,” she continued.
“There are some turtles in the fossil record that lack keratin in their skin, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are without keratin.
It could be that the turtle has a very different set of genes for the keratin gene that is important for their skin.”
Dr Kesselmeyer said the team was particularly interested in the keratan genes because they are thought to be crucial for the development of the shell, and this new work provides evidence that the genes are essential for this.
“We think the genes may be important for protecting the kerats in the shell against extreme cold, and that their development depends on the development and maintenance of the keratic acid, the pigment that makes up the shell,” she explained.
“It would be like if you had a gene for the enzyme keratinase and you develop a new enzyme that makes a protein that makes it easier to build a shell.”
“If you want to make a shell, it is really important to develop the kerasan protein, which allows the kerase enzyme to be produced,” she concluded.