Saturday, September 27, 2014

Algae eaters

What you see above, thanks to an electron microscope, is a pair of pond-dwelling organisms having sex. But the coupling of the Oxytricha trifallax does not result in offspring. Molecular biologist Laura Landweber of Princeton University has led a study on the algae-eater's genetics and reveals that during their union each partner swaps half of its genome with the other. They don't reproduce, they simply reinvent themselves. The transferred chromosomes are broken down and reassembled in a process so convoluted that the adaptive reasons for it are still being theorized. Evolutionary geneticist John Logsdon of the University of Iowa likens the resulting process to a bureaucracy: "Things happen, and then there are changes that get put into place to correct those things, and those corrections have a cost, so further corrections have to be made. You end up with this weirdly complex system that doesn’t make any sense on the surface.”

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