What are ‘supergenes’ and how do they impact evolution

e bfb a e cfe e abaf
Credit: Getty Images

Biologists identified 37… so-called ‘supergenes’ in wild sunflower populations, and found they govern the modular transfer of a large range of traits important for adaptation to local habitats. Those include seed size, timing of flowering, as well as the ability to withstand environmental stresses such as drought or limited nutrient availability, among many others.

“We were quite surprised,” says University of British Columbia (UBC) geneticist Marco Todesco. “Cases in which individual supergenes controlled adaptive traits had been reported before, but it wasn’t clear if they were the rule or just a small number of odd exceptions. What we found is that supergenes have a pervasive role in adaptation, and can be truly massive.”

The largest of the supergenes identified in the study is comprised of more than 100 million base pairs (larger than many human chromosomes) and 1,819 genes.

Related article:  Tracing evolution of mammalian hearing: Essential ear bones were once part of the jaw

The study could help resolve a question left unanswered by Darwin’s theory of natural selection—namely, how populations of organisms that live side-by-side and mate with each other are still able to adapt unique traits and diverge into separate species.

“What we think could have happened is that a species arrives in a new habitat, ‘steals’ adaptive supergenes from a local related species, and then replaces that species,” says Todesco. “We could call this a ‘ghost supergene’, the lingering contribution of a species that no longer exist.”

Read the original post

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
can you boost your immune system to prevent coronavirus spread x

Video: How to boost your immune system to guard against COVID and other illnesses

Scientists have recently developed ways to measure your immune age. Fortunately, it turns out your immune age can go down ...
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 ...
globalmethanebudget globalcarbonproject cropped x

Infographic: Cows cause climate change? Agriculture scientist says ‘belching bovines’ get too much blame

A recent interview by Caroline Stocks, a UK journalist who writes about food, agriculture and the environment, of air quality ...
organic hillside sweet corn x

Organic v conventional using GMOs: Which is the more sustainable farming?

Many consumers spend more for organic food to avoid genetically modified products in part because they believe that “industrial agriculture” ...
benjamin franklin x

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?

The assertion that biotech companies do the research and the government just signs off on it is false ...
gmo corn field x

Do GMO Bt (insect-resistant) crops pose a threat to human health or the environment?

Bt is a bacterium found organically in the soil. It is extremely effective in repelling or killing target insects but ...
favicon

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies for tighter GMO legislation and famously puts out annual "dirty dozen" list of fruits and ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be the prime mover behind the ongoing campaign against agricultural biotechnology at Consumer Reports. He is an ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend