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Cold Spring Harb Protoc. 2009 Jul;2009(7):pdb.emo124. doi: 10.1101/pdb.emo124.

The painted turtle, Chrysemys picta: a model system for vertebrate evolution, ecology, and human health.

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  • Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011, USA. nvalenzu@iastate.edu


Painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) are representatives of a vertebrate clade whose biology and phylogenetic position hold a key to our understanding of fundamental aspects of vertebrate evolution. These features make them an ideal emerging model system. Extensive ecological and physiological research provide the context in which to place new research advances in evolutionary genetics, genomics, evolutionary developmental biology, and ecological developmental biology which are enabled by current resources, such as a bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) library of C. picta, and the imminent development of additional ones such as genome sequences and cDNA and expressed sequence tag (EST) libraries. This integrative approach will allow the research community to continue making advances to provide functional and evolutionary explanations for the lability of biological traits found not only among reptiles but vertebrates in general. Moreover, because humans and reptiles share a common ancestor, and given the ease of using nonplacental vertebrates in experimental biology compared with mammalian embryos, painted turtles are also an emerging model system for biomedical research. For example, painted turtles have been studied to understand many biological responses to overwintering and anoxia, as potential sentinels for environmental xenobiotics, and as a model to decipher the ecology and evolution of sexual development and reproduction. Thus, painted turtles are an excellent reptilian model system for studies with human health, environmental, ecological, and evolutionary significance.

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