Does mutation drive DNA evolution?
The rate of mutation in a region of the mitochondrial genome of the Adélie penguin was calculated by comparing DNA from a large number of mothers to that of their chicks. To calculate the rate of evolution, DNA was extracted from ancient bones of Adélie penguins and compared to that of present day individuals (see Millar et al., doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000209). The bones, which were up to 37,000 years old, were found under present day colonies. The rate of mutation and evolution in Adélie penguins are similar; however, both appear to be proceeding faster than predicted.Image Credit: Photo of an Adélie penguin adult and its two chicks by Emeritus Professor Euan Young, Auckland University.