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Author Topic:   New Species Created in the Lab?
Percy
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Posts: 22622
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 3.7


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Message 1 of 3 (745273)
12-21-2014 9:34 AM


The New York Times article The Strange Tale of a New Species of Lizard relates how a new species of whiptail lizard was created in the lab simply by putting different whiptail species in cages and letting them breed. Crossbreeding isn't how species are normally thought to originate, the offspring are usually eventual dead ends or just reminders of how fluid species boundaries can be, but this case has interesting genetic complications. See the article for details.
My main reason for writing is that the article characterizes this development as unexpected, but I think scientists do a better job of keeping Shakespeare in mind ("There are more things in heaven and Earth...etc...") than is popularly believed. I think they also don't forget Sherlock Holmes: "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." I doubt many scientists had ever really excluded the possibility of a purpose for some junk DNA, despite what is usually written. Biology is incredibly complicated and messy, and it has not escaped the notice of scientists that the full range of possibilities cannot be comprehended or anticipated.
--Percy

Replies to this message:
 Message 2 by NoNukes, posted 12-22-2014 1:21 AM Percy has seen this message but not replied

  
NoNukes
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Message 2 of 3 (745347)
12-22-2014 1:21 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Percy
12-21-2014 9:34 AM


Crossbreeding isn't how species are normally thought to originate, the offspring are usually eventual dead ends or just reminders of how fluid species boundaries can be
Perhaps the lesson here is the fuzziness of the word "species". In this case we are talking about lizards that can reproduce via parthenogenesis despite the fact that their parents produces them through sexual reproduction. How should we define species in such a situation.
quote:
But David Hillis, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Texas, questioned whether any lineage of hybrid whiptail lizards should be considered true species. It is widely practiced, but often questioned, he said.
...
Are these new lab lizards really a species? Aspidoscelis neavesi doesn’t need to mate at all. It doesn’t maintain a single gene pool. The mutations that one lizard acquires will be passed down only to her offspring, not to others.

Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also in prison. Thoreau: Civil Disobedience (1846)
I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something from him. Galileo Galilei
If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. Frederick Douglass

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Percy, posted 12-21-2014 9:34 AM Percy has seen this message but not replied

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 22622
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 3.7


Message 3 of 3 (746135)
01-03-2015 9:36 AM


Another Biological Surprise
University of Utah researchers recently characterized the discovery of a human protein that can edit other human proteins (in effect performing a function usually performed by mRNA) as surprising (abstract).
But since we know we cannot anticipate what discoveries lay around the bend, discovering something we haven't anticipated cannot be labeled a surprise. We already know that the simple and obvious "DNA is the blueprint" is not anywhere near the full story, so obviously we must expect to find other parts of the story, we just can't know what they are in advance. This development isn't surprising, just unanticipated.
It's sort of like a paleontologist searching for bones. He knows there are huge numbers of undiscovered extinct species, he knows he's going to find bones, he just doesn't know when, where or which ones. When he discovers a new species it's a surprise in the sense that he didn't know he was going to discover it that day in that place, but it's not a surprise because in another sense he fully expected when he embarked upon his paleontological career that he would be making novel discoveries.
Scientists looking for new and unexpected phenomena and relationships cannot really be said to be surprised when they find them. "Pleased" is a much better term.
--Percy

  
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