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Marine mammals lost a gene that could help them survive polluted waters

As they evolved over millions of years to be better suited for life underwater, mammals such as whales, dolphins, and manatees lost the genetic code for enzymes that protect their land-dwelling counterparts from certain harmful chemicals. As oceans become increasingly polluted by pesticides, this loss may come back to haunt them, a study published this week in Science says. Through DNA analysis, researchers found that nearly all marine mammals have nonfunctional copies of a gene called PON1, which encodes an enzyme called paraoxonase that can quickly break down chemicals found in a number of common fertilizers, The New York Times reports. The study raises concerns that the increased presence of pesticides in marine ecosystems may have disastrous consequences for a number of aquatic species.

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