Friday, 22 August 2008

Trichoplax adhaerens

From Science magazine 21/08/08:

The flat marine organism Trichoplax adhaerens barely qualifies as an animal, yet the 98 million DNA base pairs of its genome include many of the genes responsible for guiding the development of other animals' complex shapes and organs, researchers report this week.

I think it is fascinating that this mini-beast has within its DNA a collection of genes that will play pivotal roles in the development of very complex organisms, yet their potential is not fully harnessed in this creature.

These genes have not formed out of nowhere within this creature. They have arisen in many different organisms at many different times in the past. Rather they have assembled here - brought together by many random acts of sexual reproduction between many different simpler creatures. This creature has passed its natural selection test: it has survived and passed this assembly of genes onto creatures that were able to exploit the potential of these genes to develop new levels of complexity. The useful gene combinations are held securely in place on chromosomes, so none of them will be lost along the way.

This little beast has swum in the centre of the river of life. Only now is it yielding its secrets: it is a facilitator
of the next step in evolution. Richard Howey is a real fan of Trichoplax and will be happy to show you more.

No comments: