Independent amylase gene copy number bursts correlate with dietary preferences in mammals
The amylase gene (AMY), which codes for a starch-digesting enzyme in animals, underwent several gene copy number gains in humans (Perry et al., 2007), dogs (Axelsson et al., 2013), and mice (Schibler et al., 1982), possibly along with increased starch consumption during the evolution of these species. Here, we present comprehensive evidence for AMY copy number expansions that independently occurred in several mammalian species which consume diets rich in starch. We also provide correlative evidence that AMY gene duplications may be an essential first step for amylase to be expressed in saliva. Our findings underscore the overall importance of gene copy number amplification as a flexible and fast evolutionary mechanism that can independently occur in different branches of the phylogeny.