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Science article challenges evolutionary theory

Science article challenges evolutionary theory

An article by Professor David Penny and Dr Lesley Collins in this month’s edition of the prestigious Science magazine challenges established theories of eukaryote evolution.

The evolutionary biologists from the University’s Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution co-authored the three-page article with colleague Professor Charles Kurland from Lund University in Sweden.

The published paper, titled Genomics and the Irreducible Nature of Eukaryote Cells , reviews the specific area of the origins of eukaryotes (organisms with one or more cells that have visible nuclei and organelles). It questions established assumptions and outlines the breadth of scientific speculation about early eukaryote evolution.

Dr Collins, a research fellow in the Allan Wilson Centre, says the article will undoubtedly raise a few eyebrows in the international community of evolutionary biologists.

“We felt it was important that this challenge should be put into prominence, and that a little balance should be added to the whole question of eukaryote evolution.”

Dr Collins attended a recent phylogenomics conference in Canada and presented research showing that, under certain ecological settings, sequence loss and cellular simplification are common modes of evolution (known as genomic reduction). She says that although still somewhat controversial, the research was generally well-received.

The Science feature includes research conducted into genomic reduction, a theory in opposition to that of genomic fusion, which suggests that eukaryotes evolved by fusion between archaea (bacteria-like organisms) and bacteria. Well-known examples of genome reduction in nature include fungi(such as baker’s yeast) and parasites which have much smaller genome sizes than their relatives.

Dr Collins and Professor Penny say that the increase in genomic information made available through specialised research conducted in institutes such as the Allan Wilson Centre is changing many aspects of biology, and in this case, the perception of the nature of the early eukaryote cell.

An internationally leading journal of original scientific research, global news, and commentary, Science demands a rigorous process whereby where ideas submitted by researchers are strongly peer-reviewed before consideration for publication. Dr Collins says the article was carefully edited to review a massive amount of genomic and biological information about the evolutionary trajectory of modern eukaryotes, as distinct from that of prokaryotes (organisms whose DNA is not contained within a nucleus).

Science is published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). It is published online at: http://www.sciencemag.org


ENDS

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