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The lab

Molecular biologists can now tell us who is related to whom in the chain of life

By John Maddox   July 1996

Palaeontologists, the people with hammers who look for fossils, may be the latest group to feel the hot breath of the molecular biologists on their necks. Within a few years of the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953, it was realised that the differing structure of proteins could be used to learn something about the relationship between organisms back into the mists of time. Forty years on, it seems the ambition is being realised.

Scientific journals are slowly filling up with little family trees relating different species with each other simply on the basis of the differences between…

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