Cell biology Origin Of Life

Venter’s minimal cell is a parasite

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Jonathan Wells, author of The Myth of Junk DNA , writes to say, re Mycoplasma mycoides Just Destroyed Evolution

Like Venter’s earlier work, this is interesting. But as Hunter has pointed out, the minimal genome still has too much specified complexity to be explained by unguided evolution.

Mycoplasma, the organism used by Venter’s lab, is parasitic or saprophytic. That is, it lives off other organisms or off organic waste from other organisms. In other words, it requires other living things for its survival. If anyone wants to infer anything about the origin of life from Venter’s minimal genome, they first have to explain the origin of other, more complex life forms. (Indeed, the stripped-down Mycoplasma made by Venter requires full life-support in the laboratory and probably could not survive in a natural environment.)

It lives in a rich medium.

The team’s achievement is remarkable, but says little about how cells could survive in a hostile environment.

See also: What we know and don’t, know about the origin of life

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4 Replies to “Venter’s minimal cell is a parasite

  1. 1
    gpuccio says:

    Absolutely true. Whatever first living cells were, they had to be autotrophs.

    Venter is a good researcher, but unfortunately the public statements about his work are vastly misleading.

  2. 2
    GaryGaulin says:

    Parasite? I don’t think so:

    With 517 genes and 580,000 DNA letters, it has one of the smallest known genomes in a self-replicating organism. (Some symbiotic microbes can survive with just 100-odd genes, but they rely on resources from their host to survive.)


  3. 3
    gpuccio says:


    It is certainly not an autotroph. And it requires a very rich culture medium to be cultivated.

  4. 4
    GaryGaulin says:

    gpuccio this is more typical of organisms that take advantage of the many tons of high energy nutrients that still gush out of the ground every day:

    Introduction to Chemoautotrophic Microbes at or near Hydrothermal Vents

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