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Genomes uncover life's early history


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Genomes uncover life's early history

 

Date: 25/08/2015

This has allowed them to map the evolutionary history of eukaryotic genes in unprecedented detail - giving insight into the mechanisms of evolution in the very earliest forms of life.

Their paper, which is published in Nature, builds upon the work of famous palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould who suggested that even though evolution is usually a slow process, it can sometimes take great jumps forward in a relatively short space of time. This theory was called ‘punctuated equilibrium’.

The team, including the Faculty of Life Sciences’ Professor James McInerney, wanted to look at the different ways in which eukaryotic and prokaryotic life evolved to see if there were any clues to how evolution could do these great leaps forward. Traditional models had shown that lateral gene transfer (LGT) (the flow and swapping of genes between two individuals) happened in prokaryotes and thus helped explain the enormous diversity they have compared to eukaryotes. The team therefore asked: could LGT in eukaryotes explain these great leaps forward? 

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Source: University of Manchester

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