Wednesday, June 13, 2018


"Scientists have captured how bacteria use a tiny fishing rod known as a pilus to reel in stray DNA in their environment, such as genes that can help bacteria develop antibiotic resistance."  Courtney Ellison of Indiana University was interviewed in "Nature Microbiology".

I tried to find the video for you and saw a lot of interesting stuff, but not this one.  No matter.  It looks like a teeny frog capturing an even teenier bug with its tongue.  Both the big blob and the little blog are green, like night vision or satellite screen images.  They call this DNA trick of bacteria "horizontal evolution".  No cell.  No sex.

Cells, which are basically bacteria, are not inert.  But everyone was startled and a little weirded out that a video plainly showed a bacterium "roping" a bit of floating DNA and pulling it inside.  Until recently we didn't even think of "bits of floating DNA" but now they tell us the ocean is full of it.

A friend was recently distressed because she had her genome done, as did her brother, but they are not alike and they thought it meant that they had different fathers, but they didn't have a mother who would behave like that.  I was pleased to assure them that people's genomes are far more various and random than what advertisers promise, and that's not accounting for the epigenome or the wandering infant cells that enter the mother when she carries a baby or the possibility of being a chimera, maybe someone who started out to be twins, except that one died and was absorbed by the other -- likely before the mother knew she was pregnant.

"Fingerprints are shaped by friction when a foetus touches the walls of the womb."  The world in every aspect is resourceful, participating.  Crime shows assert that fingerprints can be recovered from the inside of gloves.  So far no plot had addressed fingerprints on the walls of the womb.

Scifi used to propose that in the future we could analyze the record of micro-impacts on walls from talking and be able to recover everything said.  I'm not prepared to be sceptical at this point.

"Sargassum seaweed has been washing up on Barbados and across the eastern Caribbean in mounds up to two metres thick. The mass can become so dense that it prevents air-breathing marine animals from breaking through. The current surge is thought to have already killed several dolphins and endangered green sea turtles. The algae have also blocked fishing boats from going out to sea, while simultaneously attracting a bounty of some species of fish."  Vegetation strikes back."

All this stuff going on!  Not all of it nice at all.  We are hustling to invent categories.  Just when we had been so deeply in love with the clever double helix idea, and then the sleeve or piano mute/sustain pedal notion of the epigenome where a gene can be methylated (changed) by the environment, along come these other situations.

"The phrase horizontal evolution is used in evolutionary biology to refer to:
Concerted evolution, whereby individual members of a DNA family within one species are more closely related to each other than to members of the same type of DNA family in other species;
Horizontal gene transfer, where genes are transferred from one organism to another by means other than genes received from an ancestor[
Microevolution, development of genetic changes below the speciation threshold"

I can't stand it.  I'm going to post this short.  I'm going to go outside and finish cutting off the lowest limbs of one of my blue spruces so I can see oncoming traffic when I back out of the driveway.

Then I'm going to go look for Thread, the stand-offish kitten who keeps getting separated from the two big cats that protect the kittens even if they are really half-cats by now.  Three of the four cats are black with a white blaze on their nose.  The fourth is Thimble, gray and on the edge of dying.

So far this morning I've had one wrong number, one idle threat, and the idea that someone might come to visit.  Very few people are welcome.  But a few are, though I have no place to put them and nothing to feed them.

Then I'll hurry back inside to check the political news, not unlike the science discoveries.  Corruption like Sargassum taking over the world.

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