Title: New technique pinpoints milestones in the evolution of bacteria.
Jennifer Chu, February 7, 2019.
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.
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?