Complex organisms are able to acquire the DNA and genes of other organisms, according to new research from a team of IU biologists.
IU biology professor Jeff Palmer and his team discovered the gene sharing in the flowering Amborella plant in the South Pacific.
Palmer says biologists knew gene sharing happened with bacteria but this discovery shows it’s just as common in bigger organisms. Palmer says a discovery like this is very surprising.
“It would be like the old lady in the song, the lady who swallows a fly, and then a spider, and then the fly to catch the spider and then the cat to catch the spider and so on,” Palmer says. “It would be like if we looked in our own mitochondrial genome and found that it had acquired somehow, maybe by the same process, genes or whole genomes from the spider, and the fly, and a cat, and a fish, a frog, all the way down the evolutionary ladder all the way to fungi.”
Palmer says this discovery is surprising because gene stealing on this scale has never been seen before, and it reveals the potential that organisms have to use foreign DNA effectively.