eulogy

…and we’re back! This one was an unintentional whopper brought on by me becoming self conscious about the amount of chartsy/infographic comics we’ve been drawing*. So what started as an infographic got some narrative slapped on to the beginning and end. Did it work? Not sure. I found it amusing, though I must point out that this is not the sort of eulogy I would give. Close, maybe, but not in its current form. Call it a work in progress.

There’s a lot of information in there, all a result of research around the recent embryo comic and upcoming Haeckel comic. Plus a good dose of personal interest material, such as viral DNA. A microscopic creature gaining immortality by piggy-backing on our genome is deviously clever. At NECSS last year I asked Carl Zimmer if viral DNA had played a role in our development, and surprisingly he replied in the positive. The current understanding is that our ancestor’s transition from egg layers to placentals was aided by a viral invader whose DNA expressed as the proteins that allow the placenta to attach to the uterine wall. It’s mind-blowing. UPDATE: Carl put up a piece on his blog, The Loom, that describes this process in full. Thanks!

The discovery of Bornavirus genes in our DNA has also allowed scientists to study an effective “fossil record” of the virus, because it otherwise mutates far too quickly. But according to Wired, it’s not always consistent, as recent infections can also insert new sequences.

Regarding “mitochondrial Eve” there are quite a few caveats. The misleading biblical reference aside, she wasn’t necessarily one person. Nor was she the progenitor of all humankind. Rather it represents our most recent common ancestor. Still cool nonetheless. It’s also worth noting that there is a “y-chromosomal Adam” though he comes in thousands of years later. Same caveats.

I’ll try to rattle off the rest of the information for your clicky goodness. Learning’s the thing. Go it, ye tigers!

Oak Ridge National Lab’s genome information

Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s brief guide to model organisms

Our DNA’s shoelace caps (what are those things called? “Aglets” -gibby939 Thanks, let it be known that your google-fu is faster than mine!) Telomeres

Finally, our amazing micro biome, which consists of gut flora, the bacteria on our skin, and as reported a while back in the neti pot comic, nose flora. Again, more great stuff from Wired.
Phew. Wish I had more to say, but I ended up being strapped for time. Enjoy!

This post was brought to you by Europium (Eu).

*Not that there’s a problem with chartsy, but call it an irrational fear that my next comic would be a line graph. Horrifying.