Why evolution is more complicated than Darwin imagined

| | August 30, 2018
darwin x
Charles Darwin. Image credit: Science Outreach Office Brussels
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Darwinian evolution [is] the transmission of genes and traits down the family line. DNA, it turns out, can also be passed laterally, between individuals, including those of different species. This discovery represented a tectonic shift in our understanding of nature, a story that David Quammen tells wonderfully in his exhaustively researched book, Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life.

Darwinian evolution, of course, can explain the rise of antibiotic-resistant bugs. It happens like this. A colony of bacteria gets doused in a deadly antibiotic. Amidst the die off, one bacterium has a lucky mutation that, say, lets it manufacture a molecule that can pump the antibiotic safely out of its cytoplasm into the surrounding slime. That lucky guy thrives and divides and replaces its massacred brethren.

Related article:  DNA analysis shows ‘everyone had been wrong’ about mysterious Siberian unicorn

But unfortunately for us (and unknown to Darwin), bacteria possess another means to acquire antibiotic resistance without having to sit around waiting for the next lucky mutation: They can swap genes the way we share recipes. When one bacterium rolls up close to another—not necessarily even of the same species—it can share a chromosome containing a slew of genes with, say, an enzyme that can smash penicillin into pieces.

Horizontal gene transfer is much more than a way for bacteria to share antibiotic resistance genes; it happens throughout nature and in the history of living things.

Read full, original post: How Scientists Discovered Extra Steps in Evolution

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
sperm swim

Video: Sperm are ‘spinners not swimmers’—because they are lopsided

Research by fertility scientists in the UK and Mexico challenges the accepted view of how sperm “swim”, suggesting that it ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
breastfeeding bed x facebook x

Infographic: We know breastfeeding helps children. Now we know it helps mothers too

When a woman becomes pregnant, her risk of type 2 diabetes increases for the rest of her life, perhaps because ...
biotechnology worker x

Can GMOs rescue threatened plants and crops?

Some scientists and ecologists argue that humans are in the midst of an "extinction crisis" — the sixth wave of ...
food globe x

Are GMOs necessary to feed the world?

Experts estimate that agricultural production needs to roughly double in the coming decades. How can that be achieved? ...
eating gmo corn on the cob x

Are GMOs safe?

In 2015, 15 scientists and activists issued a statement, "No Scientific consensus on GMO safety," in the journal Environmental Sciences ...
Screen Shot at PM

Charles Benbrook: Agricultural economist and consultant for the organic industry and anti-biotechnology advocacy groups

Independent scientists rip Benbrook's co-authored commentary in New England Journal calling for reassessment of dangers of all GMO crops and herbicides ...
Screen Shot at PM

ETC Group: ‘Extreme’ biotechnology critic campaigns against synthetic biology and other forms of ‘extreme genetic engineering’

The ETC Group is an international environmental non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Canada whose stated purpose is to monitor "the impact of emerging technologies and ...
Share via
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend