The Fascinating Story of How Gene May Have Erased Tails in Madagascar 

Have you ever thought about how Madagascar was “tail-free” for centuries? It turns out the answer may lie with a gene, or set of genes. This fact is one small piece of the larger story that reveals how small changes can have huge impacts on the world, a real-world master of the domino effect.

What Do We Know?

Madagascar has always been an unusual place. It is an island off the eastern coast of Africa that, due to various factors—some of them hundreds of years old—has been populated with unique animal, bug, and plant species that can’t be found anywhere else.

For centuries, Madagascar is known to have been a stunning example of isolation, where unusual animals with traits that have disappeared in other parts of the world, have remained undisturbed by man. One of these traits soon to be revealed is the fact that there are no habitat-native animals with tails.

The Discovery of “Tail-less Gene” 

In 2015, a research team led by professor David Thaler at the University of Basel in Switzerland released a report following their study of the gene. They found a gene that appeared to be responsible for the absence of tails in certain species of mammals in Madagascar. This gene was dubbed “Tail-less Gene” or “T-Lg” for short.

The Research Team’s Findings 

The research team set out to measure the effects of the gene in four species of Madagascan mammals: the endangered cat-like fossa, a small civet-like mammal called the fanaloka, the angulate tortoise, and the pygmy hedgehog. The findings were well-documented and clear—all four species had a version of the Tailless Gene present in their DNA.

There are a few interesting moving pieces to this puzzle. First, the Tailless Gene does not appear in any out-of-Madagascar mammals. In other words, this gene appears to be an island-specific mutation. Second, it does not appear to be related to the presence or absence of a tail in other species – it is an isolated genetic shift in Madagascar. Last, the Tailless gene is extremely well-conserved, meaning the four species studied are 100% identical in the area of this gene.

Connecting the Genetic Dots 

So, what could have caused the Tailless Gene to become universal among these four species? After more research, the team speculated that the gene may have arisen naturally via mutation and then been kept intact through a process of natural selection.

In other words, the Madagascan animals with this gene could have experienced some advantage, such as an ability to escape predators or gain more food, that those without it did not have. This advantage could have allowed the Tailless Gene to spread rapidly through all four species and become the norm for them all.

The Phenomenon of “Gene Flow”

It is also possible that the Tailless Gene was spread to Madagascar from elsewhere. This phenomenon of transferring genes from one species to another, or from one region to another, is known as “gene flow”.

The researchers believe that this may have been the case with the Tailless Gene. For example, the researchers speculate that a gene from another species may have been transferred and adapted by the fanaloka. This adaptation could have caused the gene to spread and become dominant.

The fascinating story of the Tailless Gene in Madagascar goes to show the multifaceted ways in which evolution occurs. This case offers an intriguing look at how small genetic changes can have huge impacts, and it also reveals the unpredictable ways in which animals can adapt to their environments.

It seems as though there may still be mysteries to unlock in Madagascar, and the absence of tails may be just one part of it. The story of the Tailless Gene is sure to continue, and more research may reveal more of its secrets.