February 12, 2008 | David F. Coppedge

Animals from Junk by Chance

How to build an animal: throw junk DNA at it.  That seems to be the latest idea on where higher animals came from.  A press release from University of Bristol posted on Science Daily and EurekAlert announced, “‘Junk DNA’ Can Explain Origin And Complexity Of Vertebrates, Study Suggests.”
    The basic idea, coming from scientists at Dartmouth College and University of Bristol, is that a proliferation of micro-RNAs appeared in early vertebrates like lampreys that was “unparalleled in evolutionary history.”  The scientists compared genomes of living fish (sharks and lampreys) and invertebrates like the sea squirt.
    Because micro-RNAs are implicated in higher organisms, the circumstantial evidence convinced them of a correlation: “Most of these new genes are required for the growth of organs that are unique to vertebrates, such as the liver, pancreas and brain,” said Philip Donoghue of Bristol.  “Therefore, the origin of vertebrates and the origin of these genes is no coincidence.
    Dr. Kevin Peterson of Dartmouth put the discovery into a larger context: “This study not only points the way to understanding the evolutionary origin of our own lineage, but it also helps us to understand how our own genome was assembled in deep time.”

There you have it: the Darwin Party buzzwords necessary to make the eyes glaze over: deep time, understanding, evolutionary origin, zzzz.  While you were sleeping you didn’t see the magic tricks.  They threw junk at a sea squirt and poof!  A pancreas emerged!  then a liver!  then a brain!
    So happy Darwin Day.  Stop thinking so hard.  Join the party.  Have some fun.  Get involved in this game – blind man’s bluff.

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Categories: Genetics, Marine Biology

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