ญญWhat'sNEW in Cosmic Ancestry, beginning January 2021
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What'sNEW

05 May 2021 What'sNEW about HGT
...about 8% of human genetic material is derived from human endogenous retroviruses (HERV) that entered the human genetic lineage via retroviral infection of the germline....
"Virus-derived variation in diverse human genomes" by Shohei Kojima et al.,
PLoS Gen., 26 Apr 2021.
Viruses and HGT has more.

02 May 2021
Did COVID-19 arrive with cometary dust and spread around the globe on high winds? This possibility is discussed in a brief preprint by an international team of astrobiologists, immunologists and geneticists. For one argument, explosive surges of the disease at various times in disparate regions are hard to explain with only person-to-person transmission. Rather, the outbreaks look about as unpredictable as the weather. I know these authors well and I agree – the case must not be ignored.

"Cometary Origin of COVID-19" by Edward J. Steele, Reginald M. Gorczynski, Robyn A. Lindley, Gensuke Tokoro, Daryl H. Wallis, Robert Temple, and N. Chandra Wickramasinghe,
Xixra, 30 Mar 2021.
Comets: The Delivery System has background and related links.
Influenza from Space? has correpondence with updates since 2000.
07 Feb 2018: High winds carry countless viruses around the world.

02 May 2021
...the possibility of a biological transfer has practical implications for how we search for evidence of life....
"Life on Mars: Independent Genesis or Common Ancestor?" by Alfonso F. Davila,
Astrobiology, 13 Apr 2021.
"Could We Really All Be Martians?" by Dirk Schulze-Makuch, Air & Space, 30 Apr 2021.
Thanks Thanks, Google Alerts. Introduction: More Than Panspermia has history.

30 Apr 2021
Z instead of A In all of life there are four standard DNA nucleobases, known by their initials, ATGC. But a few DNA viruses infecting bacteria use an alternate for one of the four: instead of A (adenine) they deploy 2-aminoadenine, designated Z. Like A, Z pairs with T (thymine), but more strongly. Now biologists have identified enzymes that guide its assembly.
"ZTCG: Viruses expand the genetic alphabet" by Michael W. Grome and Farren J. Isaacs, doi:10.1126/science.abh3571,
Science, 30 Apr 2021.
"Weird viral DNA spills secrets to biologists" by Ewen Callaway, Nature, 29 Apr 2021.

Intriguingly to us, the Z nucleobase has been detected in carbonaceous meteorites.
"Carbonaceous meteorites contain a wide range of extraterrestrial nucleobases" by Michael P. Callahan et al., doi:10.1073/pnas.1106493108, PNAS, 23 Aug 2011.

24 Apr 2021 What'sNEW about HGT |
It's probably an ongoing process happening all the time, and then you're only going to fix one or two.
"Widespread lateral gene transfer among grasses" by Samuel G. S. Hibdige et al., doi:10.1111/nph.17328,
New Phytologist, 22 Apr 2021. "Grasses pass genes from one species to another but we don't know how" by Michael Marshall, New Scientist, 23 Apr 2021. ...how plants and animals steal genes from other species to accelerate evolution by Luke Dunning, The Conversation +Physorg.com, 23 Apr 2021.

"Widespread occurrence of natural genetic transformation of plants by Agrobacterium" by Tatiana V. Matveeva and Léon Otten, doi:10.1007/s11103-019-00913-y, Plant Molecular Biology, 21 Sep 2019.
Naturally transgenic plant species occur on an unexpectedly large scale.
Thanks Thanks, Google Alerts. Viruses and HGT has more.

16 Apr 2021
Richard B. Hoover talks with students about the history of space exploration.
Back to the Moon – and beyond, 1.5 hr powerpoint video, recorded Apr 2021.
Richard Hoover: collected articles

15 Apr 2021 What'sNEW about HGT |
Lepidoptera acquire fructosidase Butterflies and moths acquired useful bacterial genes by HGT. After transfer, the genes underwent duplication and divergence to function in carbohydrate metabolism and in the silk gland. May we please acknowledge that cross-kingdom HGT can produce macroevolutionary advances in eukaryotes?
"Horizontal gene transfer and gene duplication of β-fructofuranosidase confer lepidopteran insects metabolic benefits" by Xiangping Dai et al., doi:10.1093/molbev/msab080,
Molecular Biology and Evolution, 19 Mar 2021.
Ingenious mechanism for sucrose metabolism in lepidopteran insects Zhejiang University Newsroom, +Mirage News, 15 Apr 2021.
Thanks Thanks, Google Alerts.
Viruses and HGT has lots more.

13 Apr 2021
This book offers an account of our exploration of Mars since the dawn of the Space Age.... writes planetary scientist Sarah Stewart Johnson. It's also about her personal journey, starting from her childhood fascination with geology and the night sky, then advancing into the world of NASA. As her role there grows, the two threads come together. The science is entertaining, although some episodes disappoint me. The Sirens of Mars

Chapter 4 covers the Viking missions. We learn much about Carl Sagan and something of the hidden politics that damaged his career. We also meet Wolf Vishniac and his proposed experiment nicknamed "Wolftrap" to look for microbial life on Mars. It was dropped, but another experiment flown on Viking detected active bacterial metabolism. 'We were so excited, we sent out and got champagne, cigars,' Gulliver's lead recalled (p 70). Gulliver is actually the Labelled Release (LR) experiment, whose leader was Gil Levin. But without turning to the fine print in the endnotes, a reader would never even learn his name.

Chaper 5, "Stone from the Sky" tells the story of the Allen Hills meteorite (ALH84001). In 1996, NASA geologist David S. McKay and co-workers reported that it contained good evidence for past life on Mars. But after much excitement, skepticism took over. Johnson pronounces that neither the LR experiment nor the analysis of ALH84001 produced anything conclusive. Both projects came before her active involvement, so she is likely just relaying NASA's official position. I think it's whitewashed.

By the time Opportunity and Spirit rovers were launched for Mars, Johnson was on the team. Right away, in 2004, Opportunity photographed tiny shapes that clearly resemble fossilized crinoid pieces. She has studied fossilized crinoids and she is well aware of that image, but now she ignores it. Later Mars missions like Phoenix and Curiosity didn't include life-detecting experiments. Not even the current one, Perseverance. This intransigence is quite puzzling. Is hidden politics also at work at NASA?

But Johnson's book is really a memoir. She fell in love, she almost died, and she is ever enchanted with the wonders of Mars. Her own story is engaging and the writing excellent. I hope she writes more.

The Sirens of Mars: Searching for Life on Another World by Sarah Stewart Johnson,
ISBN:9781101904817, Crown/Penguin Random House, 07 Jul 2020.
Thanks Thanks, Mark Frederick at the Memphis bookstore, Novel.
Life on Mars! has background with updates about Viking and ALH84001.
Sea Lilies on Ancient Mars: a poster about the fossilized crinoids.

Ingenuity won't fly until next week at the earliest, Mike Wall, Space.com, 13 Apr 2021.
Mars Helicopter Flight Delayed to No Earlier than April 14, NASA/JPL, 10 Apr 2021.

08 Apr 2021
...proof of concept that animal DNA can be collected from air sampling, doi:10.7717/peerj.11030, by Elizabeth L Clare et al., PeerJ, online 31 Mar 2021.
Environmental DNA Can Be Pulled from the Air by Amanda Heidt, TheScientist, 07 Apr 2021.

07 Apr 2021
oxygenic photosynthesis phylogeny Genes underlying oxygenic photosynthesis appear to be as old as life. This conclusion follows a deep phylogenetic analysis from biologists in the UK and Australia.
Time-resolved comparative molecular evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis by Thomas Oliver et al., doi:10.1016/j.bbabio.2021.148400, Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Bioenergetics, 01 Jun (online 19 Feb) 2021.
Photosynthesis could be as old as life itself by Hayley Dunning, Imperial College London +ScienceDaily, 16 Mar 2021.
Thanks Thanks, Martin Langford.

In mainstream darwinian theory, genetic programs are composed gradually, by trial-and-error. For decades now, around the world, genomicists have been sequencing and cataloging genes, so clear examples of the darwinian process should be abundant. They aren't. Instead, genes seem to come abruptly, whole or in large pieces, as expected in cosmic ancestry. Sometimes the parts arrive long before they are deployed, as it seems here. Many more examples of genes that appear to precede their own deployment are discussed and linked from:
Metazoan Genes Older Than Metazoa?
Genes Older Than Earth?
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