COSMIC ANCESTRY | Quick Guide | What'sNEW - Later - Earlier - Index | by Brig Klyce | All Rights Reserved

What'sNEW Archives, May-July 2003

July 26
SETI SETI looks at panspermia. [Thanks, Marsbugs.]
Panspermia: Spreading Life Through the Universe, by Seth Shostak, SETI Institute, 24 July 2003.
Introduction... is a related CA webpage.
An Atmospheric Test of Cometary Panspermia is a related CA webpage.

More genes seem to precede the need for themselves. A team at the University of Wisconsin found that unicellular choanoflagellates express members of protein families previously found only in multicelled animals:
metazoan proteins       "In marked contrast to their simple lifestyle, choanoflagellates express members of a wide variety of protein families involved in animal cell interactions, including cadherins, C-type lectins, tyrosine kinases, and a G protein-coupled receptor, as well as several multidomain polypeptides that contain protein-protein interaction domains involved in signaling and adhesion in animals [such as the epidermal growth factor motif, Src homology 2 domain, tumor necrosis factor receptor domain, and sushi or complement control protein domain]."
       King et al. suspect more. They write, "We have sampled just a fraction of the choanoflagellate proteome. The diversity of choanoflagellate proteins predicted to function in cell interactions suggests that additional proteins shared exclusively with animals will be discovered through sequencing the entire choanoflagellate genome. ...It may then be possible to determine whether entire regulatory pathways linking receptor-based signaling inputs to gene regulation and cell behavior predate the origin of animals." As darwinists, they reason,
      "The discovery of multiple signaling and adhesion gene family members in choanoflagellates demonstrates that key proteins required for animal development evolved before the origin of animals." If so, they wonder,
      "The existence in unicellular choanoflagellates of proteins used for cell adhesion and signal transduction in animals prompts the question of their ancestral function in the progenitor of animals and choanoflagellates." You bet it does. Here they introduce a list of speculations.

Reconstructing evolution that happened hundreds of millions of years ago from clues in today's genomes requires substantial faith. However, if the method is valid, we think the evidence in this study supports cosmic ancestry, whereunder existing species acquire new genetic programs by gene transfer. Only after acquisition will the programs be expressed in new phenotypes. If, on the other hand, new programs are gradually composed by the darwinian method, the ones in this study must have originally served purposes different from the ones they serve in animals today. To account for this phenomenon darwinians must invent more stories.

Nicole King et al., "Evolution of Key Cell Signaling and Adhesion Protein Families Predates Animal Origins" [abstract], p 361-363 v 301, Science, 18 Jul 2003.
Ancient ancestor's legacy of life, by David Whitehouse, BBC News, 22 July 2003.
Viruses... is a related CA webpage about gene transfer. [Next-What'sNEW about HGT-Prev]
Metazoan Genes Older Than Metazoa? is a related CA webpage.


plant phylogeny The role of gene transfer in evolution is greater than previously thought. A team of US biologists reached this conclusion after a study of transferred mitochondrial genes in plants. They write,
      "Conventional genes are subject to evolutionarily frequent HGT during plant evolution and... plants can donate DNA horizontally to other plants."
      "Eukaryotic genomes regularly acquire genes by means of horizontal events that are relatively recent, datable, and definable as to donor and recipient."
      "We believe the five cases reported here are merely the tip of a large iceberg of mitochondrial HGT in plants."
      "It seems likely that plant nuclear genomes are also significantly affected by HGT." And they wonder,
      "Is HGT driven predominantly by potential vectoring agents such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, insects, pollen or even meteorites; or by the transformational uptake of plant DNA released into the soil; or by unrelated plants occasionally grafting together?" [Thanks, Hans-Peter Wheeler.]

Ulfar Bergthorsson et al., "Widespread horizontal transfer of mitochondrial genes in flowering plants" [abstract], p 197-201 v 424, Nature, 10 July 2003.
CL Bishop, "Plant-to-plant horizontal gene transfer" [text], The Scientist, 10 July 2003.
Plant genes imported from unrelated species more often than previously thought..., Indiana University, 7 July 2003.
Viruses... is a related CA webpage about gene transfer. [Next-What'sNEW about HGT-Prev]


Mars launch on hold NASA launches the second Mars Rover, nearly two weeks later than scheduled. This mission and its twin, launched last month, should land on opposite sides of Mars in January, 2004. The rovers will look for signs that the planet may have once supported life.
The World Goes to Mars, Astrobiology Magazine, 9 July 2003.
NASA Launches Mars Rover After Delays, The Associated Press, ABCNews, 8 July 2003.
2nd Mars Rover Finally Is Bound for Red Planet, by Allison M. Heinrichs and Usha Lee McFarling, Los Angeles Times, 8 July 2003.
Life on Mars! is the related CA webpage.

an intein Introns can cause new stretches of DNA to be precisely inserted into genomes. While hints of this capability were already known, introns seem even more remarkable now, according to a review in Science. "Introns serve as templates for making other proteins. Among these are spectacular enzymes that inject new stretches of DNA into precisely defined spots in a genome." Tools like this one would be necessary for the integration of new genetic programs, as in cosmic ancestry.

The article is also informative about inteins [see figure], which are similar to introns by being sequences that are ulimately removed. But inteins are edited out of amino acid sequences (after translation), whereas introns are edited out of mRNA sequences (before translation).

Ingred Wickelgren, "Spinning Junk Into Gold" [abstract], p 1646-1649 v 300, Science, 13 June 2003.
Viruses... is a related CA webpage about gene transfer. [Next-What'sNEW about HGT-Prev]
Introns... is a related CA webpage.


Viking 2 robotic arm

An in-depth commentary on the Viking mission's tests for life on Mars is posted. "We have received biology data that we believe to be good data...," said NASA's Jim Martin at the 1:30 pm news briefing on 31 July 1976. And on 7 August, NASA's Norman Horowitz said, "There's a possibility that this is biological, [but] there are many other possibilities that have to be excluded." Arguments for nonbiological interpretations of the Viking data are clearer here than elsewhere. [Thanks, Marsbugs.]

Mars: Life Pinned on Viking Horns? Astrobiology Magazine, 22 June 2003.
Life on Mars! — a CA webpage with more about the Viking mission.


A transcript of Thursday's Internet chat about about Cosmic Ancestry is available. [Thanks, moderator Micah Sparacio and all who participated.]
Brig Klyce: Cosmic Ancestry - The Modern Version of Panspermia: Transcript of ICSD Internet chat, 9:00-10:00 PM EDT, 19 June 2003.
Introduction... is a related CA webpage.

Horizontal gene transfer as a significant evolutionary driver may require an addendum to the Darwinian synthesis. So say commentators Raymond and Blankenship in PNAS about a study of 78 plastid-targeted proteins from a eukaryotic alga. It showed, "Even by conservative measures, ~21% of these genes have likely been acquired by HGT." Furthermore, "These horizontally transferred genes span a varied swath of functions...."

PNAS"Most intriguingly, two of the genes from [Archibald et al.'s] analysis indicate HGT from different bacteria, significant not only as an example of prokaryote-to-eukaryote gene transfer but also because these acquired genes initially would have not had the proper leader sequence for import into the plastid. Whether the appropriate targeting sequence was incorporated de novo through gene conversion or some other mechanism of homologous or orthologous replacement is not clear, but this remarkable finding certainly invokes new ideas on how genes are assimilated into a genome." Finally, "It now seems clear that many organisms, eukaryotes and prokaryotes, are certainly able to mimic evolutionary jumps through HGT."
J.M. Archibald, M.B. Rogers, M. Toop, K.-i Ishida and P.J. Keeling, "Lateral gene transfer and the evolution of plastid-targeted proteins in the secondary plastid-containing alga Bigelowiella natans" [
abstract], p 76787683 v 100, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 24 June 2003.
Jason Raymond and Robert E. Blankenship, "Horizontal gene transfer in eukaryotic algal evolution" [title page], p 7419-7420 v 100, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 24 June 2003.

Insertions and deletions, important for human evolution, occur at preferred sites. A team from UCSD used computer analysis of genome data to reach this conclusion. They elaborate, "...Mammalian genomes are mosaics of fragile regions with high propensity for rearrangements and solid regions with low propensity for rearrangements." [Thanks, Stan Franklin.]
UCSD UCSD Researchers Estimate Approximately 400 Fragile Regions in the Human Genome That Are Vulnerable to Evolutionary 'Earthquakes', UCSD News, 16 June 2003.
Pavel Pevzner and Glenn Tesler, "Human and mouse genomic sequences reveal extensive breakpoint reuse in mammalian evolution" [abstract], p 7672-7677 v 100, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 24 Jun 2003.

The evolutionary importance of insertions and deletions gets more notice from an international team who compared orthologous sequences from the human and chimp genomes (1.87 and 1.75 million nucleotides, respectively). They conclude, "these data suggest that evolution may have used the mechanistically more drastic indels instead of the more subtle single-nucleotide substitutions for shaping the recently emerged primate species."
Tatsuya Anzai et al., "Comparative sequencing of human and chimpanzee MHC class I regions unveils insertion/deletions as the major path to genomic divergence" [abstract], p 7708-7713 v 100, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 24 June 2003.
Human Genome Search... is a related CA webpage.

These recent developments are consistent with cosmic ancestry, we suggest. In the new theory, evolutionary advances are made possible when new genetic programs are acquired by horizontal gene transfer. This paradigm shift has already been accepted for prokaryotes; now evidence for it among eukaryotes is accumulating. Naturally, it requires the insertion of large blocks of code. Then, placing imported genes or gene fragments into designated reception areas would make them easier to retrieve later, and it would reduce the risk of damage to the receiving genome. How the genome would then assimilate the new software is not known, but the installation system would probably include mechanisms that are remarkable and intriguing to darwinists.
Viruses... is a CA webpage about horizontal gene transfer. [Next-What'sNEW about HGT-Prev]


ISCID A live online chat about panspermia with Brig Klyce, this website's author, will take place at 9PM Eastern on Thursday, 19 June 2003 (if all the software works!) Visit the link below and download an applet to participate in or to watch the discussion. The chat is sponsored by The International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design, a creationist-oriented group. We welcome this opportunity to discuss panspermia.

Live Moderated Chat Event to be held at 9PM EDT, 19 June 2003.


Launch of Mars Express European Mars Express space probe is on the way to Mars. Due to arrive there in late December, "This first European Space Agency probe to head for another planet will enter an orbit around Mars, from where it will perform detailed studies of the planet's surface, its subsurface structures and its atmosphere. It will also deploy Beagle 2, a small autonomous station which will land on the planet, studying its surface and looking for possible signs of life, past or present."

Mars Express en route for the Red Planet, European Space Agency, 2 June 2003.
Beagle Hunts for Mars, Astrobiology Magazine, 4 June 2003.
Mars Express all set for launch, by Damian Carrington, NewScientist.com, 2 June 2003.
Europe's first trip to Mars launched, by Tom Clarke, Nature Science Update, 9 June 2003.
Life on Mars! is the related CA webpage.


Erosion channels in Russell Crater Mud flows on Mars? "Satellite photos of a bright dune in the Martian southern hemisphere show remarkable details of an unusual erosion pattern. Unlike rocky avalanches found elsewhere, the dune flows suggest to two German scientists that for a few summer noon hours, liquid water may carve up the dunes in a region called Russell Crater. They ask the question: has mud flowed in the last thousand years on Mars?"

D. Reiss and R. Jaumann, "Recent debris flows on Mars: Seasonal observations of the Russell Crater dune field" [abstract], p 1321 v 30 n 6 Geophys. Res. Lett., 26 March 2003.
Is There Martian Mud in Russell Crater?, Astrobiology Magazine, 29 May 2003.
Life on Mars! is the related CA webpage. "What'sNEW" there contains over 200 items, most of which are not mentioned on the main What'sNEW page.


digital organism Computer model evolves complex functions? Four respected researchers make this claim in the latest issue of Nature. Richard Lenski et al. used a program named Avida to conduct computer simulations that "show how complex functions can originate by random mutation and natural selection." In the model artificial organisms underwent mutations including insertions, deletions and substitutions of any of 26 possible instructions, one of which is "Replicate". In each round the organisms' were rewarded based on their length (originally 50 instructions) and their ability to perform simple logic operations. This reward system makes the process a kind of artificial, as opposed to natural, selection. Nonetheless, after about 10,000 generations and about 350 mutations in a typical run, organisms became able to perform nine logical functions that their original ancestors could not. The team was especially interested in the most complex of these operations, "EQU". In 50 runs, "EQU" evolved 23 times, after a number of mutations ranging from 51 to 721. The experimenters kept a record of every step in the process, and they note that the successful lineages often underwent deleterious mutations along the way.

To enable "EQU" to evolve, the team employed a system that rewarded specific intermediate steps on the route to it. When intermediate steps were not rewarded, the "EQU" function did not evolve a single time in 50 runs. Rewarding intermediate steps assures that the fitness landscape has gradual slopes leading to the prescribed summit. Yet in real life, this feature of fitness landscapes — the availability of gradual routes to new genetic programs — is the very thing we question. Furthermore, in real life the summits are not prescribed.

We applaud this attempt to model the most interesting aspects of biological evolution, but we think that a convincing demonstration of lifelike evolutionary progress remains undone. Of course, we will continue to study this issue. [Thanks, everyone!]

Richard E. Lenski, Charles Ofria, Robert T. Pennock and Christoph Adami, "The evolutionary origin of complex features" [abstract], p 139-144 v 423 Nature, 8 May 2003.
Artificial Life Experiments Show How Complex Functions Can Evolve, National Science Foundation, 7 May 2003.
Virtual Life-Forms Mutate, Shedding Light on Evolution, by John Roach, National Geographic News, 7 May 2003.
Darwin Proved Right by Experiment with 'Alien' Life, by Robert Roy Britt, Space.com, 7 May 2003.
'Digital organisms' illuminate evolution, by Will Knight, NewScientist.com, 7 May 2003.
The origin of artificial species..., Telegraph Group Limited, 16 May 2003.
1999, August 12: "New computer model of evolution," about Lenski's earlier work.
...Is Evolutionary Progress in a Closed System Possible? is a related CA webpage with a separate What'sNEW section, Lenski et al..
Can Computers Mimic... Evolution? is a related CA webpage.
Origin of complex functions? — Brig Klyce's letter to Nature, 17 May, and a response, 22 May 2003.


Chemistry on Titan? More about the Huygens Probe, Europe's mission to Titan, comes from the European Space Agency. ESA says, "Speculations and experiments concerning the origin of life have led to no clear conclusions, despite a hundred years of effort by eminent scientists. How self-sustaining assemblies of nucleic acids, proteins and fats came into existence remains as inexplicable as ever." We welcome this blunt assessment from the orthodox scientists at ESA. Promoting Huygens, they continue, "Space research may break through a log-jam of ideas by identifying the likely chemical precursors that flavoured the primeval soup." ESA says Titan's methane is one of the initial ingredients undergoing solar radiation to make the soup, as the illustration shows. But methane itself is far easier to make biologically than otherwise, as ESA acknowledged recently. After a hundred years of failed effort to model the origin of life, perhaps we ought to consider the alternatives. [Thanks, Kevin Hatfield.]

What does primeval soup taste like?, European Space Agency, 11 Sep 2002.
2003, Apr 2: "Is Titan's methane biological?" — with a link to ESA's comments on Titan's methane.
Life on Europa... is a CA webpage with links to What'sNEW for life on moons and planets (except Mars).
The RNA World is CA's webpage about origin-of-life theories.


Miller's apparatus

Revisiting the Miller Experiment of fifty years ago is the subject of an informative essay in today's Science by two prominent origin-of-life researchers, Jeffrey Bada and Antonio Lazcano. The writers acknowlege that Stanley Miller and Harold Urey were probably wrong, in 1953, about Earth's early atmosphere, and they accept the recent evidence that "prebiotic" compounds arrive from space. Most noteworthy to us, however, is that the essay does not even mention the software aspect of the origin-of-life problem.

Jeffrey L. Bada and Antonio Lazcano, "Prebiotic Soup—Revisiting the Miller Experiment" [summary], p 745-746 v 300 Science, 2 May 2003.
Primordial Recipe: Spark and Stir — interview with Miller, Astrobiology Magazine, 14 May 2003.
The RNA World is a related CA webpage.

COSMIC ANCESTRY | Quick Guide | What'sNEW - Later - Earlier - Index | by Brig Klyce | All Rights Reserved