Jump Around

Gene mixing between species is far more common than previously thought.

January 08, 2015

“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.

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