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What'sNEW

Plant viruses may be reshaping our world, ASU (+PhysOrg.com), 17 Jul 2019. Thanks Thanks, Google Alerts.
If all of the virus genes were laid end-to-end, they would stretch 250 million light-years.

18 Jul 2019What'sNEW about HGT
Red Algae Steal Genes from Bacteria to Cope with Environmental Stresses, Rutgers Today (+Newswise), 16 Jul 2019.
The genomes of polyextremophilic cyanidiales contain 1% horizontally transferred genes with diverse adaptive functions by Alessandro W Rossoni et al., doi:10.7554/eLife.45017, eLife, 31 May 2019.
Making an argument for the importance of HGT in eukaryote (specifically, Cyanidiales) evolution, as we do here, requires that three major issues are addressed: a mechanism for foreign gene uptake and integration, the apparent absence of eukaryotic pan-genomes, and the lack of evidence for cumulative effects (Martin, 2017). The latter two arguments are dealt with below but the first concern no longer exists.
Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms has lots about the role of HGT in evolution.

Hayabusa2 touched down on Ryugu to collect material from beneath the surface.
Japanese spacecraft probes asteroid's guts for first time, Nature News, 10 Jul 2019.

11 Jul 2019
Gary Ruvkun, a principal investigator in the Search for Extraterrestrial Genomes (SETG), is featured in a recent interview. He openly advocates panspermia, and we welcome his message, with two minor reservations. First, he is obligated to concede that methane "can be produced by various chemical reactions." As Fred Hoyle once commented to us, if methane could be readily made chemically, the Nazis would have won World War II. Second, Ruvkun cannot safely oppose standard big-bang dogma. Still, for the origin-of-life, he comments that he would rather have "a hundred billion years of time or a thousand billion years of time. That would be more satisfying." To efficiently look for life beyond Earth, he wants to send DNA sequencing equipment to Mars. Great idea.
What If Life Did Not Originate on Earth? by Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, 08 Jul 2019.
Thanks Thanks, Glenda Ruby. 06 Jan 2017: more on Ruvkun.

The interview led us to his recent TED-style lecture explaining how genomics and early life point to panspermia:
Gary Ruvkun: Breakthrough Discuss 2019, YouTube, 17 Apr 2019.

On the same podium Robert Zubrin talks about DNA as a way to transmit coded information through space. He suggests that propaganda might motivate extraterrestrials to advertise to other worlds. We weren't convinced, but he soon mentions propagation, which life does instinctively, naturally. Plenty to learn from Zubrin.
...Interstellar Communication with Microbes..., YouTube, 17 Apr 2019. 21 Dec 2017: more on Zubrin.
How is it Possible? includes our early speculations about intentionally undertaking panspermia to avoid extinction.

10 Jul 2019What'sNEW about HGT |
Transformed pillbugs.jpg ...a large insertion of DNA from the endosymbiont bacteria Wolbachia ...integrated itself directly into the pillbug chromosome, essentially creating an entirely new sex chromosome via horizontal gene transfer.

Before a bacterial gene can even operate in a eukaryotic cell, it has some major biological hurdles to overcome. It must acquire introns, a promoter sequence, and a termination sequence. It also has to be able to interact fruitfully with existing host genes. ...Researchers are trying to understand how this enormous leap occurs.

...against slim odds, some of these bacterial genes have introduced novel and critical functions to their new hosts. These transfers, say researchers, are an overlooked source of fodder for evolutionary transformation in complex organisms.

Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is not overlooked in cosmic ancestry. We think it is essential for evolutionary progress. We highly recommend the new open-access review article by Viviane Callier.

...Gene transfers from bacteria and viruses may be shaping complex organisms, doi:10.1073/pnas.1909030116, by Viviane Callier, PNAS, 09 Jul 2019.
Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms is our main related webpage.
Robust Software Management in Genomes begins our attempt "to understand how this enormous leap occurs."

09 Jul 2019
Astronomers and cosmologists are beginning to promote the likelihood of interstellar panspermia. Yesterday Harvard publicised a calculation by members of its astronomy department showing that asteroids may be accelerated from the galactic center fast enough to carry life throughout the Milky Way galaxy.
Study suggests asteroids might play key role in spreading life by Peter Reuell, posted on Physorg.com (originally Harvard Gazette), 08 Jul 2019. Thanks Thanks, Ted Steele. 11-15 Oct and 09 Feb 2018: more about this study.

Three weeks ago another astronomer reported that neighboring stars may swap life-bearing cometary material frequently. We welcome endorsements of panspermia, but these recent studies are only about the transfer of physical material. It would be fanciful to assert that life is out there without the pioneering work by Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) and Chandra Wickramasighe (b. 1939). Beginning in the 1960s, they made careful spectrographic analyses of interstellar dust. By 1980 they had found solid evidence for organic molecules and even whole bacteria in the dust. Their research gave interstellar panspermia its most substantial support.
Hoyle and Wickramasinghe's Analysis of Interstellar Dust has an historical outline.
04 July 2019: Chandra Wickramasinghe reviews his role in the development of cometary panspermia theory.
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