An article published in the journal “Genome Biology” shows that many animals, including humans, acquired genes from microorganisms present in their environment in ancient times. This occurred through horizontal gene transfer (HGT), which transfers genetic material to cells that are not their descendants. The analysis of the genes of various species confirmed 17 genes previously identified as acquired in this way and identified another 128 in the DNA of humans.
Horizontal gene transfer has been known for a long time especially among microorganisms. It’s been identified in primitive multicellular creatures such as nematode worms and even in insects. Only in recent years studies started to assess it among complex plants and animals.
An international team of researchers discovered a type of deep-sea microorganism that appears to have remained unchanged for over 2 billion years. There are many species considered living fossils because they remained very similar in the course of many million of years but this is a really extreme case. Those are sulfu-cycling microorganisms that are now found in mud off the coast of Chile and are indistinguishable from fossils that date back to different past eras.
The biggest project of genetic study of birds, called Avian Phylogenomics Consortium, has started giving results. 29 articles have been published of which 8 on a special issue of the journal “Science” and the other 21 in “Genome Biology”, “GigaScience” and other magazines. This project engaged for four years over two hundred scientists in many institutes of twenty nations that digged deep as never before with the study of the evolution of birds showing how there was a sort of Big Bang after the extinction of the dinosaurs.
A group of researchers at the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Museum in Australia published in the journal “BMC Evolutionary Biology” an article that explains why vetulicolians, which are those belonging to the phylum Vetulicolia, could be the strangest relatives of humans.
These creatures had lived in the Cambrian, 500 million years ago, and their fossils were discovered for the first time more than a century ago, in 1911, but their taxonomic status remained uncertain. After this new research, things could change.
The research on the evolution of the fish that gave rise to the tetrapods gradually adapting to life on land are generally carried out by examining fossils such as the Tiktaalik roseae, a species dating back to the Devonian period, about 375 million years ago. Instead, a study published in the journal “Nature” was conducted by three scientists from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, studying modern fishhes, the gray bichir, also known as the Senegal bichir or Cuvier’s bichir (scientific name Polypterus senegalus), studying their behavior on land.