From Washington Post:
Tardigrades — otherwise known as water bears or (gasp) moss piglets — are weird. They can survive in the vacuum of space, for starters. So when researchers at the University of North Carolina announced on Nov. 23 that the minuscule animal had hitherto unheard of ratios of DNA borrowed from plants, fungi and bacteria, many in the scientific community were more than happy to believe the strange findings. Now, a lab at the University of Edinburgh claims the results must be an error.
“We just hadn’t seen evidence of that at all,” Blaxter said. The fact that tardigrades have genes they’ve acquired through horizontal gene transfer isn’t up for dispute. But the record-breaking volume didn’t line up with his own lab’s work.
He suspected that the genome had been contaminated with random bacteria from the lab, despite rigorous efforts to avoid exactly that.
The University of Iowa’s John Logsdon, who commented favorably on the first paper to The Atlantic, pointed this out when he spoke to The Post.
“I think both groups have been very earnest about their analyses and trying to get a right answer, but it seems to me like neither is entirely right,” Logsdon said. More.
So jury’s still out.
Curious how defensively the story is titled: “When labs clash over tardigrade DNA, that’s just science working as it should”
Well, yes and no. It just means that one can point out an error without facing career ruin.
That’s the only way science can work, never mind how it should work.
The whole story is doused in copy like that. If one hadn’t ever suspected that something was wrong before, one would now.
Anyway, one guesses there’ll be lots of these kinds of HGT findings, and that they won’t all be errors.
This just in: One sixth of water bear’s genes are from microbes
Horizontal gene transfer: Sorry, Darwin, it’s not your evolution any more
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Note: News posting will be light until later today due to O’Leary for News’ alternate day job.