Animal Code: Our Favorite Genomes [LiveScience 2012-05-30]
Spiny, spineless sea urchin
Humanity's evolutionary cousin, the spiny but spineless sea urchin, received the honor of having its genome sequenced in 2006 and published in the journal Science. Seventy percent of the urchins' 23,300 genes (made from 814 million pairs of genetic bases) are similar to those in humans, more than many other lab organisms like fruit flies.
The urchins' genes also hold details where the urchins get their unique immune system, and the secrets of their 100-year-long lives. The genes of the innate immune system, our body's first line of defense, multiplied in the urchin, giving them a larger toolbox to combat infections.
Though they lack eyes and ears, the researchers discovered that the urchins sport genes associated with vision and hearing as well as taste, smell and even balance.