If this is true, it is sad, sad, sad.

Moved to Rantings of a Mad Scientist page tab, August 24, 2015

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Are we monkeys, fungi, bacteria, viruses, just what are we? Part II.

As stated in the last blog post, the evidence is in: We appear to be a genetic landfill for whatever kinds of organisms can invade our cells and dump some of their genes in us. This  includes viruses, bacteria, fungi, and even plants! Scientists call this kind of genetic modification, horizontal gene transfer as opposed to vertical gene transfer (from parents to progeny). The first question is: How long has this been happening? Well, the best assumption would be for as long as viruses, bacteria, fungi, and plants have been around! That has been a very long time, indeed.

  • viruses: (at least as old as bacteria)
  • bacteria: 3.6 billion years
  • complex cells (eukaryotes) 2 billion years
  • eukaryotes which use sex: 1.2 billion years
  • fungi and animals cells separate from plant cells (all of which are eukaryotes): 1.1 billion years
  • multicellular eukaryotes: 1 billion years
  • Complex animals: 600 million years (Cambrian explosion)
  • Complex land plants: 475 million years

The next obvious question to ask is how genes from such divergent groups of cells manage to not only integrate into each other’s genomes, but actually survive and persist as part of a “hybrid” organism? Well, that is pretty much what this blog has been all about. Let me try to explain it in a very anthropomorphic way using business models: Let us start out with three companies: a hardware store, a gas station, and a grocery store. Each one is autonomous from the others and represents their own “species”.  Since they each occupy different economic niches with negligible competition from the other two, they can survive in the business ecosystem very well together. One of these companies grows much bigger than the others because of local resources that are available mainly to that kind of company, say the grocery store, for example. It decides to undergo a merger with one of the other smaller  companies to gain the benefits and resources of the niche the smaller company enjoys. Over time, redundant positions like cashiers, accounts, clerks, etc are eliminated to save both space and resources. Soon, the company grows large enough to merge with the third company, and the cycle continues on and on.

This is what may have occurred with cells. Acquisition (engulfing), merging (integration of genomes), and downsizing or purging of redundant genes. Such a complex system may have lead to cellular differentiation wherein the different attributes of each “company cell” are expressed in particular tissues of the host cell (nerves, muscle, etc) leading to a complex multicellular organism, be it plant, animal or fungus.

The mechanics of how this may have occurred are discussed and displayed with models throughout this blog. Take some time to review it and get back to me with any questions or comments at: fabernathy@sbcglobal.net.

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Are we monkeys, fungi, bacteria, viruses, just what are we?

Would you build a house, one grain of sand at a time? If you did, how long would it take you to get finished? Quite a while, right? Wouldn’t it make more sense to start out with bricks made up from the sand? Or better still, start out with pre-fabricated walls made up from bricks?

Here’s another silly example for you: Would you make a computer, one transistor at a time? A transistor is a simple on/off switch or equivalent to one bit. There are 8 bits in a byte. So to generate a computer with only one megabyte of memory would require you to solder together eight million transistors, one right after the other. Most computers today have gigabytes (billion bytes) of memory, so you would be working on that quite a while. Obviously, it makes more since to use prefabricated microchips that already have the transistors built into them. Eliminate the empty space between the transistors and fuse them together into an integrated circuit that can simply be plugged into a motherboard, instantly upgrading it to however many transistors are within that circuit.

If this makes sense for humans, why would nature be any different? After all, our brains, our mode of reasoning and figuring out the easiest ways to get thing done all came from nature. We, our relationships, and civilizations are merely extensions of what came before. And what came before included earlier primates, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, jellyfish, worms, amoebas, bacteria, and viruses. Are you telling me that these hierarchical, evolutionary relationships were are derived by sticking DNA together a few nucleotides at a time? Of course not!

This is what this blog is all about. How we may have evolved from something as lowly as even a virus, and probably still are! After all, if you have chicken pox, the virus is still inside you, right? That’s how you can get shingles. So where do these viruses “live” inside you? Well, to put it bluntly, they are now PART of your DNA, like it or not. You have been genetically changed by them.

But let’s not stop with just viruses. Even bacteria are capable of altering the genetic programming of cells such as we have and becoming incorporated into us, in essence becoming US. Don’t believe it? Think about mitochondria for a moment. Almost all multicellular life would not exist without them because they use oxygen to give us the energy we need to survive. And yet, they appear to be nothing more than remnants of aerobic (oxygen using) bacteria. The “wasted space” excess DNA, has been removed from them allowing them to work more efficiently within our cells, and some of their DNA has been incorporated into our DNA.

But why stop here?  Other bacteria may have also incorporated, not just into our cells but into our very DNA, just like viruses, eliminating “wasted space” or redundant DNA so they too can work more efficiently within us.

But why stop here? Why couldn’t fungi like yeasts or even other kinds of cells do the same thing? It’s just like computers using mega or giga upgrades instead of kilobyte upgrades.

Allow this to soak in for a moment. Then, today or whenever, take some time to browse through this blog to see why I believe this has and is still occurring. Please feel free to make comments or send me questions through e mail at fabernathy@sbcglobal.net.

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Cutting reality down to size, or the meaning of life in 30 seconds or less

(moved to “Rantings of a Mad Scientist” page tab)

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Are humans descended from apes eating moldy fruit?

The evidence that the number two chromosome of humans was the result of two ape chromosomal fusions is fairly clear just by looking at the karyotypes of the two primates. This is why humans have 46 chromosomes instead of 48, like apes. In order for this event to lead to an entirely new species, the sexual reproduction of at least two members of the same species that inherited this chromosomal fusion would have to take place. Once this occurred, a brand new species with only 46 chromosomes would be instantly created that could no longer sexually reproduce with the original ancestor.

How could two near simultaneous events such as this occur? There are a variety of possibilities, but nature generally takes the path of least resistance with the minimal amount of time required to get the job done. That is what this blog is all about, life finding ways to get things changed in a big geologic hurry. Mutations take a long time to occur, and “good” mutations take even longer. However, if these mutations result from huge masses of DNA shifting about within and between chromosomes, then, changes can add up in a hurry.

How do we speed up this natural mutation rate? Well, we either use chemicals or we use radiation. Millions of years ago, apes probably were not exposed to large doses of ionizing radiation as found in nuclear power plants, so the odds are that any mutagenic accelerations were the results of exposure to chemicals. The most likely candidates (in the case of apes) would be through the eating of “moldy” or dirty fruits. Soil bacteria like Streptomyces produce a wide variety of mutagenic agents called radiomimetic drugs. These are drugs that mimic the effects of ionizing radiation on DNA, the core of chromosomes. It is well known that such mutagens can lead to dramatic chromosomal damage in sex cells, leading to genetic defects in offspring.

It is not hard to imagine that two genetically “defective” but viable individuals with similar traits might be physically attracted to one another and subsequently reproduce, generating an entirely new primate genera (Hominids). Once a species is formed and segregates itself from the original ancestral line, it goes its own way with regard to genetic diversity and drift. This is probably how many species have formed and evolved over short geologic time spans (adaptive radiation).

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How did we go from noxious slime to man?

Here’s another (of many blogs) that try to make sense of the Cambrian explosion where the body plans of all major animal phyla were laid down, almost in a creationist kind of design: Cambrian explosion. It is assumed by some that all of this occurred in a span of only 20 million years, which in geologic terms, is the blink of an eye. Put another way, consider that life on earth had been plodding along for 3.4 billion years as little more than bacterial slime prior to the Cambrian explosion.  Twenty million years is less than 0.6% of the time period in which life existed prior to the Cambrian explosion! Some say that snowball earth (Rodinia) generated the oxygen necessary for the evolution of multicellular life. Without sufficient oxygen, multicellular life would never have occurred and would die quickly today without it. Even if this did provide conditions necessary for multicellularity, it provides no ready explanation for how it occurred so quickly compared to previous rates of evolution. By quickly, I mean a rate of evolution that was as much as 170 times faster! The best analogy for this kind of rapid evolution is by comparing it to computer evolution. Computers did not evolve one or two transistors at a time (single point mutations). They evolved rapidly by first generating integrated circuits, then chips, then larger more complex chips composed of smaller chips, then motherboards, then intranet servers, then the internet, and  finally, the cloud. To get a better “feel for this blog, start at the Introduction.

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Bad science: the saga continues…

moved to “Rantings of a Mad Scientist” page tab

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