Widespread transfer of genes is important driver of evolution

Washington: A new study has revealed that widespread transfer of genes between species has radically changed the genomes of today’s mammals, and has also been an important driver of evolution.

In the world’s largest study of so-called ‘jumping genes’, the researchers at the University of Adelaide traced two particular jumping genes across 759 species of plants, animals, and fungi.

These jumping genes are actually small pieces of DNA that can copy themselves throughout a genome and are known as transposable elements.

It was later discovered that recross-species transfers, even between plants and animals, have occurred frequently throughout evolution.

The transposable elements they traced entered into mammals as foreign DNA.
“Jumping genes, properly called retrotransposons, copy and paste themselves around genomes, and in genomes of other species. How they do this is not yet known although insects like ticks or mosquitoes or possibly viruses may be involved – it’s still a big puzzle,” said project leader David Adelson.

The team also looked at the transfer of BovB elements between species. BovB is a much younger jumping gene, it was first discovered in cows but has since been shown to jump between a bizarre array of animals including reptiles, elephants, and marsupials. Earlier a research found that ticks were the most likely facilitators of cross-species BovB transfer.

The findings are published in the Journal of Genome Biology.