A2 Microbes in the News: Post 2

Title: New technique pinpoints milestones in the evolution of bacteria.

Jennifer Chu, February 7, 2019.

MIT news


Summary: A new technique has come up that will allow scientists to better determine when various species of bacteria evolved. This stemmed from a published paper that determined some groups of soil bacteria developed the ability to break down chitin 450-350 mya. They believe that this evolutionary change was caused by the changes occurring in other species, that were evolving and leaving behind chitin in the soils. Gregory Fournier claimed that tracing similar genes could allow them to find out more about animal history. There is no fossil record, so scientists have been using a molecular clock to determine when mutations were occurring. They also claim that they can use other species with clearer fossil records to determine when evolution of certain traits passed to the species they are interested in because of phenomena such as horizontal gene transfer. The scientists were specifically interested in learning about chitinase, because it is seen in most bacterial groups and fungi (whom apparently have a good fossil record). They created trees showing the relationship between all the species they chose based on genetic mutations, then used the molecular clock technique to determine when the species with chitinase diverged.


This connects to what we’ve learned about in class because it discusses horizontal gene transfer.

Critical analysis:

I think it is interesting that this is considered a new technique, I thought they had already been doing this kind of research, but maybe they had just not found a way to do it in bacteria. I think the article was scientifically accurate, based on the fact that is cites an actual published paper that was funded by NSF.  I think it was written well, it seems to be in a language that most people might be able to understand if they have some sort of previous knowledge or interests in science, however if they don’t they might be confused by some of the terms used within the article.

Question: Would this research about the evolutionary history of microbes possibly be helpful in further understanding the concept of horizontal gene transfer, and maybe be helpful in fields such related to infectious diseases, so they could trace when the negative genes were transferred?

2 Comments for “A2 Microbes in the News: Post 2”



This is an intriguing article! It seems amazing to me that people are able to trace microbes through time using molecular analysis. I agree that this article seems very well written and accurate.
I think that this kind of research could certainly be helpful in understanding the concept of horizontal gene transfer! Being able to map out when and where genes have been transferred through time can give us a better understanding of how and why genes are transferred. This knowledge could help us better target diseases involving horizontal gene transfer as well as prevent/predict antibiotic resistance.



This is a very cool advancement in science technique, will definitely be helpful in learning more information to placing bacterial into exact locations in the tree of life. I cant wait to see where this research progresses.

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