A research team led by biologist senior staff scientist Axel Visel, affiliated with the Environmental Genomics & Systems Biology Division, delved into the genetic basis for why snakes have no legs. The team’s research results demonstrated changes in a regulatory sequence associated with a major body plan transition and highlight the role of enhancers in morphological evolution.
Their findings, published in the journal Cell on October 20, have been widely covered in both national and international news media. The publication coincided with a Current Biology article in press (2016) by Leal and Cohn from the University of Florida who also looked at the mystery of how snake limbs vanished. This Washington Post article describes the approaches both teams took to come up with corroborating results.