“Shake any branch on the tree of life and another astonishing case of interspecies gene transfer will fall at your feet. Bdelloid rotifers—tiny translucent animals that look something like sea slugs—have constructed a whopping eight per cent of their genome using genes from bacteria, fungi and plants. Fish living in icy seawater have traded genes coding for antifreeze proteins. Gargantuan-blossomed rafflesia have exchanged genes with the plants they parasitize. And in Japan, some people’s gut bacteria have stolen seaweed-digesting genes from ocean bacteria lingering on raw seaweed salads.”
—From “The Gene That Jumped,” Ferris Jabr writing for Aeon on how genetic promiscuity steers evolution and might aid, or hinder, a species’ survival.
onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.