The Atlantic

How a Quarter of Cow DNA Came From Reptiles

By hopping between species, jumping genes have radically altered the course of animal evolution.
Source: Andres Stapff / Reuters

Imagine if a word in a book—say, bubble—had the ability to magically copy itself, and paste those copies elsewhere in the text. Eventually, you might bubble end up bubble bubble with bubble bubble bubble sentences bubble bubble bubble bubble like these.

This is exactly what happens in our genomes. There are genes known as retrotransposons that can copy themselves and paste the duplicates in other parts of our DNA, creating large tracts of repetitive gobbledygook. Around half of the human genome consists of these jumping genes. And a quarter of a cow’s DNA consists of one particular jumping gene, known as BovB. It, and its descendants, have bloated out the cow genome with thousands of copies of themselves.

This jumping gene seems to have entered the

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