Another genome supports FLE

With more than 18,000 individual genes, the sponge genome represents a diverse toolkit, coding for many processes that lay the foundations for more complex creatures. These include mechanisms for telling cells how to adhere to one another, grow in an organized fashion and recognize interlopers. The genome also includes analogues of genes that, in organisms with a neuromuscular system, code for muscle tissue and neurons.

According to Douglas Erwin, a palaeobiologist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, such complexity indicates that sponges must have descended from a more advanced ancestor than previously suspected. “This flies in the face of what we think of early metazoan evolution,” says Erwin.

Charles Marshall, director of the University of California Museum of Paleontology in Berkeley, agrees. “It means there was an elaborate machinery in place that already had some function,” he says. “What I want to know now is what were all these genes doing prior to the advent of sponge.”

The analyses of Srivastava and her colleagues suggest that there was a crucial window, some 150 to 200 million years in duration, when the basics of multicellular life emerged. Nearly one-third of the genetic alterations that distinguish humans from their last common ancestor with single-celled organisms took place during this period. These changes would have occurred within our sponge-like forebears.


One response to “Another genome supports FLE

  1. “This flies in the face of what we think of early metazoan evolution.” says Erwin.

    If only she had read The Design Matrix.

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