How Symbiosis, Horizontal Gene Transfer, and Virolution Call for an Extended Synthesis

Saturday, February 16, 2013: 1:30 PM-4:30 PM
Room 308 (Hynes Convention Center)
Comparative (meta)genomics have made us realize that horizontal evolutionary phenomena have been vastly underestimated. The serial endosymbiogenetic theory has proven the symbiogenetic origin of mitochondria and plastids. Symbiosis studies further prove that symbiotic unions continue to be relevant to understand evolution. Symbiotic unions can become transmitted vertically, from parent to offspring, through means other than germ-line transmission. Abundant evidence also exists for horizontal or lateral gene transfer in microorganisms. And evidence is piling up that lateral gene transfer also occurs abundantly in eukaryotic organisms. Gene sequencing techniques further prove that viruses also contribute to the evolution of life. They may have played a crucial role in the development of the genetic code, and viral genes are abundantly present in non-coding DNA regions that used to be designated as “junk DNA.” Such horizontal evolutionary phenomena pose major challenges to the Modern Synthesis, which makes a clear distinction between ontogeny and phylogeny, emphasizes germ-line transmission, and defines speciation as a splitting or “branching off” process. Horizontal evolutionary studies have consequences for how we define units of evolution, and biological individuals, how we draw the tree of life, and how we conceptualize speciation.
Nathalie L. Gontier, University of Lisbon
Luís Correia, University of Lisbon
Douglas Zook, Boston University
Symbiosis as a Driving Force of Evolution
Nathalie L. Gontier, Dutch Free University of Brussels
Importance of Horizontal Evolution for the Sociocultural Sciences
Emanuele Serrelli, University of Milan-Bicocca
Symbiogenetic Views and the Gaia Hypothesis
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