If selection pressure results in conservation of DNA sequences, what is the most plausible explanation for the existence of ultra-conserved elements (refs here and here) given that there hasn't been any significant validation of the functional significance of these elements other than a lot of bioinformatic analyses across different genome datasets? If these are of such high significance, does this mean that there is still some significant gap in our understanding of fundamental biology or is there another explanation? The second reference in particular show that there are UCEs shared between plants and animals, but are not syntenic (which is not necessarily a surprise) so it might suggest that at least a class of UCEs are associated with structural rather than functional elements.
It appears that there are at least several different 'classes' of ultra-conserved elements, based on the number of matching/identical bps, their spatial distribution across the genome and the species in which they exist. Even though there is probably no single explanation that would account for all the possible functions they can have, it is surprising that they are difficult to test functionally. This is again probably due to a lack of understanding about their properties and therefore no real method to validate their function. I think this is where we need to think outside the box to come up with the answer.
What would be the most obvious (and possibly not so obvious) function for UCEs?