Far from just being the product of our parents, University of Adelaide scientists have shown that widespread transfer of genes between species has radically changed the genomes of today’s mammals, and been an important driver of evolution.
In the world’s largest study of so-called “jumping genes,” the researchers have traced two particular jumping genes across 759 species of plants, animals and fungi. These jumping genes are actually small pieces of DNA that can copy themselves throughout a genome and are known as transposable elements.
They have found that cross-species transfers, even between plants and animals, have occurred frequently throughout evolution.
Both of the transposable elements they traced — L1 and BovB — entered mammals as foreign DNA. This is the first time anyone has shown that the L1 element, important in humans, has jumped between species.
“Jumping genes, properly called retrotransposons, copy and paste themselves around genomes, and in genomes of other species. How they do this is not yet known although insects like ticks or mosquitoes or possibly viruses may be involved — it’s still a big puzzle,” says project leader Professor David Adelson, Director of the University of Adelaide’s Bioinformatics Hub.
“This process is called horizontal transfer, differing from the normal parent-offspring transfer, and it’s had an enormous impact on mammalian evolution.”
For example, Professor Adelson says, 25% of the genome of cows and sheep is derived from jumping genes. Paper. (open access) – Atma M. Ivancevic, R. Daniel Kortschak, Terry Bertozzi, David L. Adelson. Horizontal transfer of BovB and L1 retrotransposons in eukaryotes. Genome Biology, 2018; 19 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s13059-018-1456-7 More.
Well, if 25% of the genome of cows and sheep is derived from jumping genes (horizontal gene transfer), Darwinism (natural selection acting on random mutations passed on from parent to offspring) is over. We can all go home now. And rewrite the biology textbooks.
See also: Researchers: Horizontal gene transfer drives global infectious disease
Horizontal gene transfer: Sorry, Darwin, it’s not your evolution any more
Life continues to ignore what evolution experts say