DailyDirt: You Tell Me That It's Evolution…
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
The number of zombie apocalypse movies has been growing over the last few years, introducing “fast-moving” zombies and new kinds of swarming behaviors for the undead. The causes of the zombie apocalypse range from viral to supernatural, but the general awareness of biotechnology’s ability to create monsters is undeniable. Meanwhile, Mother Nature herself is creating her own deadly diseases (ahem, ebola) and is making them more difficult to eradicate. Here are just a few observations of evolution that we can hopefully learn from and use to prevent an extinction event.
- Maybe you’ve heard of a strain of group A Streptococcus because you’ve had strep throat. Beginning in the 1980s, strep strains have acquired four (just 4!) genetic modifications — via horizontal gene transfer and regular old mutation — to become a flesh-eating (necrotizing fasciitis) infection. [url]
- Researchers are looking at populations of Escherichia coli under various conditions to try to capture snapshots of genetic evolution in progress. There may be constraints on evolution, and mutations might not be as random as they might initially appear. [url]
- The Permian-Triassic extinction (aka The Great Dying) was an event about 252 million years ago in which the majority of life on our planet was extinguished. The cause is uncertain, but a recent hypothesis suggests that the transfer of two genes from one type of bacteria to one type of archaea resulted in a microbial bloom that disrupted our planet’s carbon cycle by pouring an exponentially-growing amount of methane into the atmosphere. [url]
If you’d like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.
Filed Under: archaea, biology, biotech, carbon cycle, e coli, evolution, flesh-eating bacteria, horizontal gene transfer, methane, mutation, necrotizing fasciitis, permian-triassic extinction, strep
Comments on “DailyDirt: You Tell Me That It's Evolution…”
Predictable blah blah blah
Ah, no, mutation is always random. Selection isn’t. The fact that the same mutation arises independently and is selected for is still random on the mutation end. But the populations have a shared genome to work with, so it isn’t terribly surprising that they would all independently evolve a suite of advantages.
The novel observation is cool, but still as poorly presented as the rest of the article. The only way mutations could only occur in a specific order is if it is a secondary mutation on a mutated gene. It almost certainly could occur in a different order, but may not have a selective advantage, or be outright selected against if it breaks things without the prior mutation in place.
I looked for some comment on this rather old article, and even searched Jerry Coyne’s blog, but couldn’t find anything. But it is a case of rather atrocious science journalism. An interesting fact written up mostly wrong. In fact, the actual interesting novel discovery is barely addressed, either specifically or in a generalized fashion such as to provide a basis for the strangely worded claim in the title.
The latest theory on extinction is that it was caused by spaceships flown by transforming robots.
And where can I buy your new book?
I am sick an tired of evolution being confused with adaptation. Adaptation is a fact. Evolution may, in reality, be a myth. Or maybe not. But what we are seeing in our lifetimes is definitely adaptation, not evolution.
Oh sure, try to refute a well accepted hypothesis with semantics – nice. And your field of expertise is?
That’s like saying ‘I am sick an tired of water turning into a solid state being confused with water freezing. Water turning into a solid state if cold enough is a fact. Water freezing, may, in reality, be a myth.’
No, as a matter of fact, evolution is not a myth, no matter how much some people might wish it to be. Evolution, that is species changing over time to better ‘fit’ their environment via random mutations is, as much as anything can be with science, a fact. The only real debate is the details of ‘How?’, with the theory of evolution being the current ‘winner’ there.
Some believe that birds evolved from dinosaurs. But how can that be, if all the dinosaurs were killed?
Some believe humans and dinosaurs coexisted, how can that be if you review the available data?
Our Imminent Demise
I fail to see societies infatuation with our imminent, apocolyptical (not sure if that’s a word) death. Conspiracy theories, Armageddon, etc. While I know that some enjoy talking about it, it gives me anxiety to be honest. Let’s hope nothing crazy happens in the next 20 years:)