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Genetic Convergent Evolution: Stunning Gene Similarities Among Diverse Animals

Soulskill posted 1 year,27 days | from the science-is-beautiful dept.

Science 164

Toe, The writes "It has long been understood that completely different animals can end up with very similar traits (convergent evolution), and even that genes can converge. But a new study shows an unbelievable level of convergence among entire groups of genes. The study shows that animals as diverse as bats and dolphins, which independently developed echolocation, converge in nearly 200 different genomic regions concentrated in several 'hearing genes.' The implications are rather deep, if you think about it, delving into interesting limitations on diversity or insights into the potential of DNA. And perhaps more importantly, this finding goes a long way toward explaining why almost aliens in the universe look surprisingly identical to humans (though still doesn't explain why they all speak English)."

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Stunning atom similarities as well (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44760761)

I'm pretty sure all life has the Periodic Table of Elements in common. I'm a genius.

Re:Stunning atom similarities as well (2)

xevioso (598654) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761823)

I don't know if this is true. Some life contains compounds made up of elements that don't exist in other forms of life. Tungsten, for example. Quoth wikipedia: "Tungsten, at atomic number 74, is the heaviest element known to be biologically functional, with the next heaviest being iodine (Z = 53). It is used by some bacteria, but not in eukaryotes. For example, enzymes called oxidoreductases use tungsten similarly to molybdenum by using it in a tungsten-pterin complex with molybdopterin (molybdopterin, despite its name, does not contain molybdenum, but may complex with either molybdenum or tungsten in use by living organisms). "

Dolphins and Bats are Mammals (2, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | 1 year,27 days | (#44760771)

Not to pooh-pooh this study, but dolphins and bats aren't as far apart as say, bats and moths. If a fish or reptile converged with a mammal that would be more "unbelievable". I think we're in "Oh, cool," territory more than "WHAT????"

Re:Dolphins and Bats are Mammals (4, Interesting)

goombah99 (560566) | 1 year,27 days | (#44760859)

Not to pooh-pooh this study, but dolphins and bats aren't as far apart as say, bats and moths. If a fish or reptile converged with a mammal that would be more "unbelievable". I think we're in "Oh, cool," territory more than "WHAT????"

Well that's the point. they all start with some common underlying mamallian hearing genes and then they tweak them to develop echolocation.

My guess is that in addition to certain mutations being easy to evolve (for example a particular mutation might set a rate constant on a binding protein to a be in some useful range for a typical return signal time, to create a clock), that viruses could carry genetic material between species that would bind the dna in common regions and transfer the point mutations between species.

Re:Dolphins and Bats are Mammals (2)

MightyYar (622222) | 1 year,27 days | (#44760919)

they all start with some common underlying mamallian hearing genes and then they tweak them to develop echolocation.

I guess that's less surprising a result to me than when things like koala thumbs happen. The front paws are kind of like our hands, except that the opposable split happened at the index finger so that they have two "thumbs". In the rear, the split happened at the same place, but then the two "thumbs" fused together, creating a new single "thumb" that is completely different from ours. If they had developed thumbs in the same way that we did, it would have surprised me less.

Re:Dolphins and Bats are Mammals (1)

Shavano (2541114) | 1 year,27 days | (#44762669)

Racoons have forepaws very similar to human hands. Much more so than humans vs. koalas. You see their prints on the ground and it looks like they were made by little babies (except babies don't have sharp claws on the ends of their fingers).

Re:Dolphins and Bats are Mammals (1)

MightyYar (622222) | 1 year,27 days | (#44762921)

Right - that is my expectation... that any creature with basic mammal anatomy would adapt in a similar way to a similar stimulus. So, in your example, raccoons are in the same order as dogs, bears, seals, and weasels... and yet they have hands similar to primates. Meanwhile, koalas are a marsupial and yet they have a different adaptation for grasping. Then again, bats are closer relatives to us than either of them!

Re:Dolphins and Bats are Mammals (1)

MightyYar (622222) | 1 year,27 days | (#44762927)

Crap I meant to say that koalas and possums are marsupials.

Re:Dolphins and Bats are Mammals (2)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761285)

Well, that's true except they independently developed this feature, meaning the common split point didn't have it at the genetic level.

Did these common genes develop from the same common genes, or completely different ones? As things break and re-arrange, some paths would be more common than others by the very mechanisms of reproduction.

It may be more like fin vs. arm, the "same stuff", where that is defined as the same genes with alteration, except in this case, the common ancestor genes had nothing to do with echolocation.

Re:Dolphins and Bats are Mammals (1)

gmuslera (3436) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761309)

Like dolphins and sharks (that are around far before mammals), that have a somewhat similar shape? More than having the best shape for a function, having also DNA for genetic code and probably similar decoding engine could explain matches even there.

Re:Dolphins and Bats are Mammals (1)

MightyYar (622222) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761503)

Yes, if dolphins and sharks show convergent DNA, that would be really cool.

What I've said all along (5, Insightful)

dorpus (636554) | 1 year,27 days | (#44760817)

I got my PhD in statistical genetics. Why should we equate genetic homology to evolutionary homology? All these studies that speak of a hypothetical Adam or Eve assume that the same mutations could not have arisen independently in different parts of the world.

Re:What I've said all along (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44760869)

"I got my PhD in statistical genetics." What a waste of time.

Re:What I've said all along (1)

cshark (673578) | 1 year,27 days | (#44762175)

I dunno. Sounds like it could be a fascinating field.

You got out of bed with the wrong leg today (1)

roguegramma (982660) | 1 year,27 days | (#44760935)

My understanding of the slashdot summary is that what you are saying is exactly the point of the study or at least the point that the author of the slashdot blurb wanted to make. No idea why someone labelled this with "intelligent design" as that means no evolution at all.

Re:You got out of bed with the wrong leg today (0)

Antipater (2053064) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761167)

No idea why someone labelled this with "intelligent design" as that means no evolution at all.

ID was always explained to me as accepting evolution, but not natural selection (i.e. the traits that compose modern life were artifically selected for by the "designer"). As such, you could conceivably put an ID tag on this story.

Re:You got out of bed with the wrong leg today (1)

gewalker (57809) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761299)

ID may or may not accept macro-evolution. ID may or may not accept natural selection. ID merely insists that at least some of the biology is so complex that it could not have arisen from naturalistic causes.

Re:intelligent design (1)

roguegramma (982660) | 1 year,27 days | (#44762321)

You can of course water down the "intelligent design" claims until they don't mean that much anymore, but originally the term was used in contrast to natural evolution (including natural selection). "intelligent design" implies that someone had a specific design in mind when he/she/it started designing. Such a property however has not even been postulated in the religious books as far as I can recall. Therefore, what you really want to call such an argument is called "directed evolution", not "ID".

Re:intelligent design (1)

MickLinux (579158) | 1 year,27 days | (#44762397)

This also relates to ID in another way: it forces some people to reconsider the theories which so many consider to be authoritarian law.

Mind you, I have my own favorite commonly held evolutionary variant, to which this is no surprise at all.

But I really do favor letting creationists and ID'ers have a place at the scientific podium, because nothing drives science forward so mercilessly fast as losing a debate to a creationist.

And yes, I do also believe God made the universe and Earth and walked among us. But one variant of evolution is HOW I think He made life on Earth.

Re:intelligent design (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44762717)

ID started off way back in 1987 as nothing more than a word processor search&replace term for creationism, and no scientific content has ever been added. Want to annoy an ID proponent? Ask them what the theory is. Seriously. They never bothered to come up with one. They even went to court and admitted that science would have to be redefined in order for ID to be scientific, and the same definition would allow astrology.

Watering down ID is the same as watering down water. No, I take that back. Watering down ID is like watering down homeopathy.

Re:You got out of bed with the wrong leg today (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44762735)

ID was always explained to me as accepting evolution, but not natural selection

See, there's your problem ... any explanation someone gives you for ID is crap, intended to support their crackpot theory, and is outside the bounds of anything which can be called science: it is purely conjecture, and trying to adapt facts to fit your unfounded claim.

It boils down to "at some point I can't specify, magic happened .. as evidence for this, I cite that this is really complex stuff and couldn't have happened without a 'designer' (for which I can offer no credible proof beyond 'because that's what I wish to believe)' ".

There is a completely illogical jump to "and then a miracle occurred", but there is zero evidence to support the claim.

The people claiming ID is 'science' are pulling a big con-job -- either on you or themselves.

Re:What I've said all along (0)

PRMan (959735) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761095)

You got your PhD in statistical genetics and you still refer to Eve as "hypothetical"? Isn't it a genetically proven fact that all human women share the same mother?

Re:What I've said all along (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761149)

And she's got one HUUUUUGE vagina.

Amirite?

Re:What I've said all along (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761185)

Not at all. We interbred with Neanderthals and still retain many of their genes. I suspect that as species diverge this sort of thing happens a lot. The chicken or the egg analogy is flawed, as there were likely hundreds of eggs all over the world that hatched into what we would now consider a chicken at around the same time. They inter-bred with non-chickens and passed on their genes that eventually became dominant due to evolutionary pressures.

There was no genetic Adam and Eve. "Humans" slowly came to be human over thousands of years, and we're still evolving. Scientists have found differences in our genes over periods as short as a few decades (usually due to disease)

Re:What I've said all along (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44762971)

Or to put it another way, there was an Eve, but she wasn't very good looking.

Re:What I've said all along (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44761243)

Uh oh, looks like Bible Camp is about to take a beating...

Re:What I've said all along (4, Informative)

Guppy06 (410832) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761271)

/sigh [wikipedia.org]

Re:What I've said all along (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44761407)

/sigh

It's /.

Re:What I've said all along (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44761195)

Settle down fry boy and get me my guacamole dip.

Re:What I've said all along (1)

0111 1110 (518466) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761411)

I have no idea what you or the article are talking about and I have no idea what the significance of this experiment was or what conclusions can be drawn from it or even what conclusions the author himself may or may not have made. Any chance you could explain any of this to a software/hardware guy like me with zero knowledge of Biology/Genetics? Maybe a software analogy would work.

Re:What I've said all along (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44761775)

Here's a rough software analogy: "Two equally-talented software developers, tasked with writing code to implement feature X, tend to solve that problem in very similar ways, such that the code they write is structurally quite similar, even down to surprisingly small details - such as variable and function names."

Why is this a big deal? It suggests that there are certain common patterns (and anti-patterns) which go into development of a biological function, at least in similarly-derived animals (e.g., mammals) - which means that it might be useful in more rapidly identifying important genes and collections of genes for a particular trait - "We know that gene x and y have a strong influence on development of trait Z in bats, are there genetically similar areas in dolphins that might be related?"

It gets a lot easier to find the needle in the haystack, when you know that needles tend to be in a particular location.

Re:What I've said all along (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44762019)

Actually, the point of the article was that the same mutations DID arise independently... That is the definition of convergent evolution.

FYI an example of convergence exists in mitochondrial genes in snakes and agamid lizards -- it's not found in lizards more closely related to snakes.
PNAS article on convergence in snakes and lizards [pnas.org]

English (2)

bob_jordan (39836) | 1 year,27 days | (#44760825)

It simply proves that through a process of survival of the fittest, English is evolving at the expense of weaker languages into the perfect language. :-)

Eventually all you will have is English, and all the programming languages derived from it.

Bob.

Re:English (2)

psyque (1234612) | 1 year,27 days | (#44760937)

Maybe one day we'll all be named Bob.

Re:English (2)

Rob Riggs (6418) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761119)

Maybe one day we'll all be named Bob.

I'm one step ahead of you.

Re:English (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761389)

Remember what happened with "Mary" in Tok Pisin. :-) Pehaps one day, the word for a human male will indeed be "bob". ;-)

Re:English (1)

SteveFoerster (136027) | 1 year,27 days | (#44762705)

The word for a guy, you mean?

That explains Anonymous (0)

tepples (727027) | 1 year,27 days | (#44762743)

Oh, so that's why Anonymous uses the V for Vendetta masks: so that outsiders can't tell one "guy" from another "guy".

Re:English (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761007)

Dear Bob, languages do indeed mutate and diverge like animals do, they even go as far as to establish barriers for exchange of their fundamental units when they diverge sufficiently, but they're not selected on basis of some internal fitness, thus ruining your analogy.

Re:English (1)

bob_jordan (39836) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761115)

There was a time when French was the standard second language across much of Europe. Finance, law, business, diplomacy were all conducted in French. The aristocracy spoke French. The university students were taught in French.

I'm not trying to say English is better but I would be interested to hear your views on why English took over from French when French had such a lead and "some internal fitness" has nothing to do with it.

Thanks,

Bob.

Re:English (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44761277)

When it came down to the final battle, language a language the French ran away. Man, WWII jokes are so "IN" right now...

Re:English (1)

gewalker (57809) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761347)

Dominant influence in a number of areas. movies, music, computers and Internet, science and technology, business, military.

UK and US influence have been strong for generations. Many of the areas of dominance are shifting toward non-English cultures in recent decades.

Re:English (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761351)

I'm not trying to say English is better but I would be interested to hear your views on why English took over from French when French had such a lead and "some internal fitness" has nothing to do with it.

Because the English picked up the baton from the French! And the language got a free ride. I don't think it impossible for some parallel universe to have the French-speaking États-Unis d'Amérique dominating the world, perhaps with a small English-speaking minority in the state of Charliana. If the fitness of the language were an issue, it would have been a draw since both these languages are perfectly substitutable in whatever role you might need them.

Re:English (1)

gmuslera (3436) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761405)

In general complex memes like language (and religion and so on) adapt and evolve. But the main problem in the gp argumentation is the "becoming perfect", there is no perfection in evolution, just better fit for a particular environment (that could change with time). Anyway cultural barriers usually deny adoptions of better language features (i.e. German speakers are better saving money [theglobeandmail.com] ) because tradition, national pride, or whatever.

Re:English (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761445)

"Better language features" is an idea straight from the outdated 19th century, or perhaps even more prominently 18th century view of linguistics. No such thing as "better language features" has ever been observed by serious modern linguists.

Re: English (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44761603)

English doesn't have accents; that's a better language feature, making it easier to use on computer keyboards and other text input devices.

Re:English (1)

gmuslera (3436) | 1 year,27 days | (#44762723)

Not of the language by itself, but for the effect on how you see the world or your attitude in certain situations, check the link in my post.

Re:English (0)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761465)

It simply proves that through a process of survival of the fittest, English is evolving at the expense of weaker languages into the perfect language. :-)

Eventually all you will have is English, and all the programming languages derived from it.

Bob.

Actually, survival of the fittest has pretty much been discounted, at least Darwin's version. If anything, survival of the fittest would mean that humans would not be here because we are anything but the fittest for our environment, at least in terms of early man. Anthropologists hold that what enabled man to survive and eventually dominate the other species and the environment was our ability to cooperate and make up for our weaknesses. Now some would try and argue that that ability made humans the fittest, and in a way it is true, but it is not what is meant by the phrase survival of the fittest.

As for English being the dominant language, I wouldn't discount Mandrian. Besides English is by far an imperfect language based on simple basics like the lack of masculine and feminine nouns so that he means male and also neutral. It is also a very imprecise language where an individual word can have several meanings depending on context.

Re: English (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44761653)

Imprecision and ambiguity enables natural language to adapt to new environments. For example, "mouse" easily took on a new meaning to accomodate a technological innovation. Formal languages in trying to ban ambiguity prevent the flexibility needed to evolve.

Re:English (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44761841)

Now some would try and argue that that ability made humans the fittest, and in a way it is true, but it is not what is meant by the phrase survival of the fittest.

You're wrong. This is, in fact, exactly what is meant by "survival of the fittest," and exactly what Darwin meant by it. He said that organisms that were selected by evolution were those best suited for surviving in their immediate environment. And in this case, cooperative humans were the best suited for survival - ergo, they survived and flourished.

Re:English (1)

Genda (560240) | 1 year,27 days | (#44762011)

You seem to have mistaken wealth and power with fitness. I expect that in a century, your Great Grand Children will greet one anther with a cheery "Ni Hao!"

Re:English (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | 1 year,27 days | (#44762503)

Eventually all you will have is English, and all the programming languages derived from it.

Bob.

Realize the truth: The programming languages are the ones you will all have to learn. English is easier to represent in machine speak... Look at Japanese, Simplified now goes from left to right, top to bottom -- instead of top to bottom right to left. Why? It's easier for machines to process languages if they've got common features.

Before End: For all features in $LANGUAGE if ( $FEATURE is ambiguous or [ parse difficulty > $COGNITVE_LOAD average ] ) remove it from $LANGUAGE.

Your language will merge with that of the machines. It is ridiculous to assume otherwise. Natural language processing is too powerful a feature to not harness merely for the sake of sentiment.

Random (letter) selection (-1, Flamebait)

Empiric (675968) | 1 year,27 days | (#44760863)

''We had expected to find identical changes in maybe a dozen or so genes but to see nearly 200 is incredible,'' explains Dr Joe Parker, from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences and first author on the paper.

Yes, truly IncreDible.

Re:Random (letter) selection (3, Insightful)

reve_etrange (2377702) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761151)

Only it's entirely credible. That is entire premise of a peer-reviewed publication.

You know your argument is worthless when it hinges entirely on nitpicking common expressions.

Re:Random (letter) selection (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44761181)

Whoosh...

Re:Random (letter) selection (0)

Empiric (675968) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761229)

Take it up with Dr. Parker. He used the term "incredible", quite deliberately and with full awareness of the implications of the term. Even if -you- want to redirect to a semantic objection that holds no relevance, nor accurately recounts the statement--but happens to correspond what you personally wish he had said, had meant, or was the case.

And, of course, one could not possibly evaluate a position based on one sentence regarding it, ever, for any topic, nor is there even the beginnings of a rational thought on your part there.

Re:Random (letter) selection (1)

reve_etrange (2377702) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761273)

You are claiming that a single scientist using a single word to express surprise to a science journalist is somehow supportive of the intelligent design fallacy - irrationality which is well matched to your rambling prose.

Re:Random (letter) selection (1)

Empiric (675968) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761501)

Okay, so you retract your implication that my three words were the -only- argument I have for it, which you knew via your psychic powers, and now state only that I consider it "supportive" of it, correct?

In fact, given the broadness of how one might interpret those three words, I suggest that the sole reason you formed the interpretation you did, and the objection you did, is -you yourself- find it "supportive", and now are denying your own evaluation of your own brain, and projecting who has an issue onto me and Dr. Parker.

Aliens... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44760873)

this finding goes a long way toward explaining why almost aliens in the universe look surprisingly identical to humans (though still doesn't explain why they all speak English)

That's easy; you need at least some level of English to get your green card.

And we all know that the illegal aliens speak Spanish, not English.

So close... (1)

pjt33 (739471) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761031)

You're almost there with talking about cards, but you've got the wrong one. It's actually down to aliens learning English from American Express application forms. It's all documented in So long and thanks for all the fish.

Explains SciFi Shows?? (2)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | 1 year,27 days | (#44760879)

And perhaps more importantly, this finding goes a long way toward explaining why almost aliens in the universe look surprisingly identical to humans

I know this is tongue in cheek humor, but -- NO, IT DOES NOT DO ANYTHING OF THE SORT! DNA is chemical in origin and so goes, different chemical compositions of different planets would give rise to vastly different DNA compositions resulting in life nothing like our own.

Re:Explains SciFi Shows?? (1)

uCallHimDrJ0NES (2546640) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761029)

Because life is likely to emerge in some other chemical distribution? Interesting idea. Do the requirements for being defined as "life" also change according to available chemistry?

Re:Explains SciFi Shows?? (1)

Genda (560240) | 1 year,27 days | (#44762085)

Actually xeno-biology is fascinating. You could base information encoding structures and chemistries in endless ways, and it's possible to imagine the DNA role being taken by all kinds of other carbon based structures (include complex sugars.) This all speaks to organic chemistry like our own. There's no reason that far more exotic chemistries that don't live in liquid water or require fatty acids couldn't exist, even complexes of other states of matter (plasma, or the thin skin of a neutron star where neutron degeneration could create phase changes,) Many of these ideas have been the source of good science fiction, and the well has hardly been tapped. Still looking for forward to the possibility of exotic life on Titan!

Re:Explains SciFi Shows?? (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761233)

Dude, chill. From a story-maker's perspective, ANY sort of evidence for convergent evolution is all they need to justify aliens being bipedal and have faces and things.

Secondly, why do you even assume that alien life would have DNA? It's just one method of storing build instructions. There are probably others.

Finally, and this is the main thrust of the story here, even though DNA is "chemical in origin" that doesn't make one damn bit of difference to, say, aerodynamics. If an ecosystem develops flight through evolution or if the Wright brothers strap some wings to their bikes, both want to generate lift, and reduce weight and drag. If a rat from around alpha centari developed flight, it would have some very similar qualities to the birds and planes of Earth. And I'd even go so far as to say that it'd have similar genetic coding instructions. That's harder to compare when the source code is in a different language, but even when it's Java vs C, you can point to a section and say that it helps the rat shit constantly to reduce weight whenever possible.

The argument is that there's a "perfect end-goal" that is, of course, quite similar to our own form because we're egotistical asshats like that and it's cheaper to put an actor in a monkey suit than pay for CGI. But if there's an optimal end-state for evolution on the whole, instead of specific functions like flight, swimming, eating burrowing mammals, etc. then you can argue that other races with entirely different evolutionary envrionment, code-base, and process, will all converge to something similar.

Re:Explains SciFi Shows?? (1)

meglon (1001833) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761573)

DNA is chemical in origin and so goes, different chemical compositions of different planets would give rise to vastly different DNA compositions resulting in life nothing like our own.

No.

You're suggesting that we are a product solely of availability of resources. While that is true only in the widest possible understanding, a simple review of compositions shows it doesn't hold for what you're suggesting.

The chemical composition of the human body: 65% Oxygen, 18% Carbon, 10% Hydrogen, 3% Nitrogen, 1.4% Calcium, 1.1% Phosphorous...then less than .25% of a whole bunch of others. What you're suggesting would mean that because we know that, we can say that the environment we live in has the same percentages...which it doesn't.

The composition of the air: 78% Nitrogen, 20.9% oxygen, .9% argon, >.04 of everything else (rounded). Clearly we're not that. Our planetary surface composition: 46.6% Oxygen, 27.7% Silicon, 8.1% Aluminum, 5% Iron...and on down the line; again, clearly not us. The chemistry of life isn't near as simple as you're suggesting.

Our DNA is the way it is because that is the simplest, most stable way those molecules could form that produced the end result they did. We know that because we exist. It didn't have to be intelligently directed, as other posters elude to, no more than a lightning bolt has to be intelligently designed to form ozone molecules.

Don't give our DNA the short shrift either. We have organisms here on this planet that can survive in the hard vacuum and radiation of space for extended durations, all the way to organisms that use copper, or even vanadium, instead of iron to carry oxygen in their blood. Their DNA is the same chemical composition and structure as ours is.

However, on the overall question...the reason those aliens look surprisingly like humans is: cost of special effects, and tantrums by actors who are asked to wear incredibly uncomfortable alien suits for long periods.

Re:Explains SciFi Shows?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44761807)

I'm not disputing your point, but the salts in human blood and the salts in sea water are an amazing match once you adjust for dilution. That's because we didn't come from the earth or air which you compared us too. We came from the sea.

Why smartphones look alike (1)

aNonnyMouseCowered (2693969) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761863)

"And perhaps more importantly, this finding goes a long way toward explaining why almost aliens in the universe look surprisingly identical to humans"

Since we're going off-tangent here, I'd say this finding goes a long way toward explaining why a Galaxy S looks surprisingly identical to an iPhone. Similar function, similar form. If you want a device with a touch screen and you want it in the sleekest form factor, with few hardware buttons and maximum screen real estate, you will come up with an iPhone. Or a Galaxy S.

They all speak English (2)

WarJolt (990309) | 1 year,27 days | (#44760881)

They all speak English because they've been watching all our old shows that have been beamed into space for decades.

Re:They all speak English (1)

RazzleFrog (537054) | 1 year,27 days | (#44762301)

And amazingly they all have a Cuban accent - "you got some 'splaining to do!"

Spanish (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44760889)

I beg to differ Spanish is taking over putos.

Blind Sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44760895)

It makes sense that the echo location was developed in a deep sea creature before the lines separated genetically and the trait remained genetically suppressed in the creatures until it was needed in a later stage of evolution.

I don't think the trait developed independently.

Re:Blind Sense (1)

Genda (560240) | 1 year,27 days | (#44762139)

Sorry, there've been bats since the early Eocene around 52 million years ago, and since the ancestor of cetaceans came from land around 30 million years ago (and had no reason for echolocation), the trait was developed as they evolved into ocean going creatures while bats were happily echo locating the whole while. Sorry, interesting hypothesis... how did you account for echo locating genes getting back from cetacean to land dwelling animals?

almost aliens (1)

frovingslosh (582462) | 1 year,27 days | (#44760933)

why almost aliens in the universe look surprisingly identical to humans

And just what are "Almost Aliens"? All I can think of is that they are aliens that claim to have been born in Hawaii.

Re:almost aliens (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44761047)

We come from.... France.

inter-specie-cross-breeding more like it (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44760941)

Speaks volume to the notion of inter specie cross breeding than just co-incidence does it not?

Re:inter-specie-cross-breeding more like it (1)

Genda (560240) | 1 year,27 days | (#44762153)

A whale and a bat breed?... that is just sick beyond imagining.

Horizontal gene transfer (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44760965)

Could this have anything to do with horizontal gene transfer ?

Re:Horizontal gene transfer (1)

Genda (560240) | 1 year,27 days | (#44762161)

For 1, maybe even 3 or 5 genes, not 200.

Could be hidden in junk DNA (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44760975)

These tendencies could have been hidden in junk DNA and therefore the real convergence could be that random mutations which activate strands of junk DNA can enable the same latent characteristics in many species that are not linearly related by evolution. And where did the junk DNA come from in the first place? Check out the diversity and utter wierdness of precambrian life forms. It seems clear that complex lifeforms like animals and plants likely arose when two or more of these precambrian lifeforms, living in some kind of symbiosis, actually combined their DNA into longer chains. After that one creature's DNA evolved into brains and nerves, another's DNA into the digestive system, and so on.

Look at the face of an ant for instance, there is a distinct nose shape in that face even though there are no nostrils and insects breathe through their abdomens. The eyeballs we use to see with are the ball sockets on insect feelers which wave smelling organs through the air. The insect eyes are our temples which, interestingly enough, are still light sensitive in humans. Any migraine suffer who needs to cover their eyes to feel relief will have noticed that they must also cover their temples to gain full relief.

Also, we know that genetic material CAN be transferred by viruses in some instances. But we don't know the full gamut of circumstances in which it can happen or whether there is a random element to such transfer that becomes statistically significant over millions of years or evolution.

Re:Could be hidden in junk DNA (1)

Genda (560240) | 1 year,27 days | (#44762179)

The junk is fast becoming an area of serious study. the fact that it doesn't encode protein seems to belie the fact that it controls morphology, gene expression, and in fact looks to be fractal in nature and incredibly information rich.

Huh? (1)

MondoGordo (2277808) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761005)

I'm not sure I understand why this is surprising to the researchers ... I mean, if the independent evolution of certain abilities in diverse species happens, doesn't it make sense that it would be expressed in the genetic code in the same ways ? And isn't it true that many collections of genes tend to be responsible for the manifestation of physiological attribute rather than just a few ? So doesn't it make sense that complex physiological abilities like echo location would require a lot of genetic commonalities to manifest in different species? Put another way echolocation requires specialization of vocal, aural and cerebral apparatuses in order to work ... so knowing that several genetic sequences are usually responsible for narrow physiological attribute manifestations, why would we expect only a handful of common gene sequences? IANAT

Re:Huh? (1)

reve_etrange (2377702) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761203)

I agree completely, and I have multiple degrees in biochemistry and molecular biology. You do get totally different sequences which end up coding for the same protein structures, but like you seem to understand there are strict physical limits on what structures can actually perform a particular function, so especially for complex functions involving hundreds of coding sequences you might expect significant convergence.

Also what is that T, "theorist?"

Epigenetics? (1)

Coop (9778) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761083)

Maybe the genes didn't mutate but were somehow forced into commonality by similar ancestral proto-ecolocation behavior.

Re:Epigenetics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44761121)

Umm, no.

Your suggestion is not even a cogent idea.

No (2)

roguegramma (982660) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761153)

Epigenetics does in general not change or mutate genes(*).
At least the most common examples for epigenetics are cases where a gene's activity has been increased or decreased, which can be explained by molecules attaching to the DNA. The study is talking about evolution, hence mutation, and not about epigenetics.

(*)Of course, someday someone will find a rare example where epigenetics actually changes the mutation rates of genes.

Re:Epigenetics? (1)

reve_etrange (2377702) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761257)

The "proto-echolocation" behavior is regular mammalian hearing, so in that sense you are exactly right. However the convergent evolution being discussed did occur in parallel in different kinds of bats as well as whales, after the species split but before either had any pre-echolocation abilities other than regular hearing.

Isn't this what you would expect from a Creator? (1, Interesting)

dtjohnson (102237) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761123)

If there is a Creator of life, then we would expect to see the blueprints used for more than one construction site...perhaps even more than one planet. Alternatively, however, if we are all actors in a play that no one wrote, then randomness would be expected to create more genetic diversity.

Re:Isn't this what you would expect from a Creator (4, Interesting)

oodaloop (1229816) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761677)

Then the evidence is overwhelmingly pointing to no creator. The genes that code for intelligence in corvid birds and chimpanzees are different. The genes that code for wings in birds, bats, insects, and pterasaurs are completely different. The genes that code for white fur and similar looking white filaments in plants are way off. Wouldn't a creator just reuse white fur on cotton plants? The genetic diversity across the seven kingdoms and the millions of species is vast, with genetic convergence the extremely rare exception, not the rule (hence why this is newsworthy). Sorry, your own argument points to there being no creator.

Re:Isn't this what you would expect from a Creator (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44763039)

> The genes that code for intelligence in corvid birds and chimpanzees are different.

Citation needed. Genes that code for intelligence in animals are largely unknown at the time of this writing. Let me know if you can prove otherwise. Peer-reviewed scientific papers only, please!

> The genes that code for wings in birds, bats, insects, and pterasaurs are completely different.

Which insects? Which birds? Which bats? Citation needed. Which genes? Have scientists sequenced complete pterosaurs genes? No. I'm not even aware of any partial gene sequence of pterosaurs. If you prove otherwise, let me know. Peer-reviewed scientific papers only, please!

> The genes that code for white fur and similar looking white filaments in plants are way off.

White fur in which animal? For several well-studied mammals, like cats, dogs, and rabbits, these genes are already known---melatocortonin receptor (MC?R genes) among others in the pathway.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23996627 [nih.gov]

White filaments in plants: Be specific, which plants?

You sound like you know a lot, but you don't.

Re:Isn't this what you would expect from a Creator (1)

davidwr (791652) | 1 year,27 days | (#44763047)

I'm a Bible-thumping Christian,* but I think Douglas Adams was on to something when the God in the Hitchhiker universe declared himself so openly that faith was no longer required, and instantly disappeared in a puff of logic.

Now, I'm not saying Adams was literally correct, but a God that asks us to have faith and a God that is so visible that faith is not required seems like an odd juxtaposition.

*Don't assume my reading of the Bible lines up exactly with any particular liberal or conservative reading of the Bible.

Horizontal gene transfer (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44761175)

We know that genes are transferred across species by microorganisms or viruses. Is it so unlikely that the code for a new trait (say, an organ) could be transferred this way? In the rare case that it finds a suitable environment, the trait might be of advantage and persist. This is still evolution by natural selection, only that inheritance is more complex than Mendel and Darwin thought. It's not just Mommy's genes and Daddy's genes.

Re:Horizontal gene transfer (1)

Shavano (2541114) | 1 year,27 days | (#44762695)

Dammit. I was imagining a dolphin fucking a bat and you just ruined my mental image.

Bats and dolphins are created by one creator (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44761211)

It is natural that they shared some genes, for they are created by the same creator.

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Genesis 1:1

I hope you will believe in the good news:

believenot.com [believenot.com]

Comes down to the programing. (2)

Trax3001BBS (2368736) | 1 year,27 days | (#44761875)

To perform the analysis, the team had to sift through millions of letters of genetic code using a computer program developed
to calculate the probability of convergent changes occurring by chance, so they could reliably identify ‘odd-man-out’ genes.

I was following a different train of thought; trying to support it came across this:

"In the traditional approach, the dynamic programming based pair-wise alignment is used for measuring the similarity between two sequences.
This method does not work well in a large data set."
http://link.springer.com/static-content/lookinside/465/chp%253A10.1007%252F3-540-45554-X_47/000.png [springer.com]

Paywall, the above is all there is. Text mining techniques were used in the research.

http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F3-540-45554-X_47 [springer.com]
Hoang Kiem and Do Phuc (snicker, he said...).

Proof of Creation!! (3, Interesting)

haruchai (17472) | 1 year,27 days | (#44762093)

They were all very intelligently designed by the Great Programmer. There's even code reuse.

Re:Proof of Creation!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44762767)

They were all very intelligently designed by the Great Programmer. There's even code reuse.

In that case, god must be a Windows programmer, just look at all of the bugs.

Re:Proof of Creation!! (1)

TarPitt (217247) | 1 year,27 days | (#44763123)

But did the Great Programmer use Agile or Waterfall?

Until we can know, this will be the source of great sectarian divides and shrill accusations of heresy

interstellar hybrids (1)

tverbeek (457094) | 1 year,27 days | (#44762557)

And perhaps more importantly, this finding goes a long way toward explaining why almost aliens in the universe look surprisingly identical to humans (though still doesn't explain why they all speak English).

Simple convergent evolution explains why Vulcans, Betazoids, and Klingons (sometimes) look so much like humans, but this genetic analysis explains* why hybrids such as Spock, Deanna Troi, and B'Elanna Torres are genetically possible.

*ignoring ST:TNG "The Chase"

ALIEN LIFE (1)

barv (1382797) | 1 year,27 days | (#44762909)

This finding is more likely to be proof that all earth life evolved from an alien settlement marooned here. The aliens (and some of their food source plants/animals) devolved and evolved to all the animals and plants on the earth, which is why most species will have many genes in common. (Think Galapagos)

The only alternative I can think of is viral transmission. Dolphin gets flu with and flu virus adds dolphin genes, flu travels interspecies and bats catch it, and capture some of the genes from flu virus.

Both of those explanations are more inherently probable than convergent evolution as speculated. Wow, work out THAT improbability, then multiply by 50!

God creates. Evolution is religion. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44763017)

It shows a common designer is anything. That is God. A very little difference in percentage is actually very huge difference in outcome.

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