from the urls-we-dig-up dept
The history of evolution has been largely erased by time and poor record keeping. Sure, we still have a few genomes that look remarkably similar to ancient organisms, and we can try to make some educated guesses about how life on earth developed. We might even be able to re-animate some extinct animals, but we’ll never be able to re-capture the full environment and complex ecology that no longer exists for our most distant ancestors. Still, it’s fascinating to study evolution and to try to witness it in action.
- The first multi-cellular organism lived about 800 million years ago, and no one knows how that happened exactly. The rise of multi-celled life relied on a protein (GK-PID) that happens to result from a mutation on a single gene. Without this minor change, life on earth could be little single-celled organisms (or not-so-little single celled creatures like Gromia sphaerica). [url]
- Since 1954, some Japanese researchers have kept fruit flies in the dark to breed them for 1,500 generations (and counting) to watch how mutations might help these flies adapt to living in total darkness. Sequencing the genome of Drosophila melanogaster specimens reveals dozens of possible genes that deviate significantly from normal flies and enable these flies to detect pheromones better (among other things). It might take a lot longer to witness the evolution of a new species (if we can agree on how to define a species, that is), but this dark-fly project also might not last much longer. [url]
- About 500 million years ago, an invertebrate animal mistakenly inherited twice its usual genetic material with a extra copy, and then that genetic doubling happened again in the next generation. These kinds of mistakes happen from time to time, and they’re sometimes unstable — but genome duplications can also lead to more complex cellular communication systems and novel protein developments. [url]
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