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No. 39: May-Jun 1985

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How Animals Might Get Inverted

The above title is just a literary ploy. We don't know how upside-down animals get that way; and, obviously, we don't think anyone else does either. Nevertheless, biologists are now discovering some radical things about life that could lead to some real "answers."

First, we have a case of genetic material being transferred from a fish to a bacterium. The case at hand is the light-producing bacterium that provides the ponyfish with its luminous organ. In this symbiotic arrangement, the fish somehow passes genetic instructions to its retinue of bacteria.

(Lewin, Roger; "Fish to Bacterium Gene Transfer," Science, 227:1020, 1985.)

Comment. Perhaps symbiotic relationships are fine-tuned by the mutual exchange of information!

Second, the role of viruses in transferring genetic material across species barriers is at last getting some serious attention. (Remember how Fred Hoyle was snickered at for promoting this idea in his books?) D. Erwin and J. Valentine, of the University of California, are now pointing out how a whole colony of "hopeful monsters" might be created en masse by an attack of viruses carrying new genetic blueprints. (And remember how Richard Goldschmidt got the same treatment as Fred Hoyle for suggesting "hopeful monsters" decades ago?

(Anonymous; "Gene-Swapping Breaks Barriers in Evolutionary Theory," New Scientist, p. 19, February 1985. Also see: National Academy of Sciences, Proceedings, 81:5482, 1984.)

Comment. We don't want to get carried away, but it just may be that all life forms are interconnected informationwise by viruses, diseases, symbiotic relationships, and similar "channels." Gaia-wise, there could just be a single superorganism in the universe that is exploring and experimenting, and we are one of its experiments!.

From Science Frontiers #39, MAY-JUN 1985. 1985-2000 William R. Corliss