43

This question makes a number of incorrect assumptions and I don't have time to correct them. The short answer is that the virus has mutated probably hundreds of times since it entered humans in late 2019. The lower figure on the NextStrain.org ncov page, "Diversity", shows the known mutations that have been identified so far. As I look at it now, there are ...


32

I really like this question as it is such a fundamental underpinning of all life on the planet, yet there is such sparsity of actual information on its origins and why selection rewarded ATP use over anything else. Here I am talking generally since no specific studies exist in ATP vs other candidates. A lot of the below information is taken from a relatively ...


29

You have clearly given this a lot of thought. Unfortunately, as @adam.r said, you are laboring under certain misapprehensions. The quick answer is that each generation does not "improve" on the last. That is a common misconception. In a bit more detail: First of all, your copying metaphor is a bad one. There was no "perfect original", I expand on this theme ...


11

I don’t like this sort of question because I don’t think it can really be answered and I’m very suspicious of arguments that seem to claim ATP is the only or even the best solution to the problem. Nature generally demonstrates that there is more than one way to kill a cat, but if one way works adequately you don’t always need to look for another. This is ...


10

This question is closely related, and the fascinating link posted by @JohnSmith is a good read. In short, with a four-base system, and a codon size of 1, you get four possible amino acids. Silly system. A codon size of 2 gives 16. Not too shabby, but not a lot of room for growth, and not enough for those 20 amino acids. Codons of size 3 gives 64 - ...


9

I’ll add a slightly different perspective, although terdon’s answer already contains the relevant facts. The thing that makes DNA endure in the face of imperfect copying is that, like computer storage, it’s digital. The relevant property of digital data here is that individual pieces of information aren’t given on a scale, they’re drawn from a strongly ...


9

Abiogenesis, the development of living things from non living matter, is not something we know much about, since it happened about 4 billion of years before we were around and haven't reproduced it in the lab. My guess is that it's not easy. However, the Miller-Urey experiment and others have told us something about abiogenic production of organic compounds. ...


8

The straight forward answer is: we don't know. We don't have any direct evidence for what happened at that time nor any completely developed and coherent theories for how it worked. The widely believed hypothesis is the "RNA World" hypothesis. RNA, unlike DNA, is capable of spontaneously folding to form catalytic molecules and thus avoids the needs for ...


7

You either want a introductory book in evolutionary biology or a book that offers mathematical models of evolutionary processes. In my first class of evolutionary biology I had this textbook: Futuyama, Evolution I think it gives a good start to the field and offers a good overview of the difference subfields. If you think you already know enough about the ...


7

The smallest unit that can be selected is, of course, the single nucleotide. The most striking examples of this are Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs), many of which confer selective (dis)advantages. To take a simple example, imagine a SNP that introduces a frameshift mutation, rendering a gene incapable of producing its protein. If that protein is ...


7

There are two types of synapses: Chemical synapse Electrical synapse The first one is the one you are asking about. The second one corresponds to the faster synapse you are imagining. It consists of two neurones connected by a gap junction. Gap junction form a cytoplasmic bridge between the neurones and thereby allow electrical signal to directly go from ...


7

The flaw in his argument, from what I can see in your quotes, is to equate evolution to natural selection. Natural selection was never proposed to explain all evolution, nor how advantageous traits arise, but was proposed to explain how advantageous traits spread. Ultimately, why adaptation is so prevalent? The modern theory of evolution is so much more than ...


7

This is a common question. I think the experiment and its conclusions are often misunderstood. Originally, the null hypothesis was that the ingredients for life could not have come about spontaneously, from inert, inorganic molecules. There was no evidence of strictly physical, non-biological processes being able to produce compounds that were necessary for ...


6

These equations describe how the haplotype frequencies will change over time due to a combination of recombination and natural selection. Before I proceed, I need to change your four $\delta X_i$ formulas above. Lewontin and Kojima (1960) writes the equations as: $$\Delta X_i = \frac{X_i(w_i - \bar w) \pm Drw_{14}}{\bar w}$$ where the minus sign is used ...


6

One reason is that an intermediate like mRNA allows for higher amounts of protein expression. You can have multiple mRNA molecules that are translated simultaneously. If you read directly from DNA you can have at most two translations in parallel. I'm not sure about this, but I would imagine that having to unwind the DNA double strand every time for ...


6

Start and stop codons are instructions for the ribosome to start and stop protein synthesis, respectively. The region between the start and stop codon (inclusive of them) is called ORF (open reading frame) or sometimes CDS (Coding sequence). Why does ribosome need explicit instructions for start and stop? Ribosome recognizes an RNA as a mRNA if it has ...


6

Organic Evolution - Definition 'Organic evolution' was a common term. It is just rarely used today. Today, we just say 'evolution' or 'evolutionary biology' when referring to the field of study of 'evolution' (or of study of 'evolutionary processes'). Book recommendation Math oriented As you are used to work in applied mathematics, you'll definitely be ...


6

Good question--I think the first point to address is "a means to an end" seems to imply willful action. That is, evolution (according to Ridley) would be a conscious effort by a species to optimize the gene pool for survival of future generations; a rationalization for each species to mutate and diverge. This is not the case, for a couple of reasons. First, ...


6

The difference in DNA replication rate between prokaryotes and eukaryotes is still under current research, but the basics are understood. It is very much a matter of complexity, as eukaryotes are more complex in many different ways. I found a very useful reference for this and other kinds of related questions. Briefly, some possible reasons: [...] in ...


6

Can we give a robust definition of species? No. Species constantly evolve, diverge, converge, interbreed, and mix and shuffle and trade and spread genes. To draw a box at any particular point in time around a population or lineage, and to say, "all contained within are members of such-and-such species" fails to appreciate that this would only ...


6

First it is worth noting individuals don't evolve, populations evolve. We can observe cells giving rise to different cells, the long term E.coli experiment is a famous and ongoing example, not only can evolution be observed but because sample cells from the population are taken and frozen periodically, it can be repeated! that is you can observe a change ...


5

Preface I have already provided an answer to this question, addressing one aspect of it: why a nucleotide triphosphate — rather than any other molecule — was the choice for an energy carrier. In that answer I suggest that the choice of ATP, rather than any GTP, CTP or UTP, was mere chance. This second question has, in fact, been posed, but was regarded — ...


5

We know about nuclear DNA having a mitochondrial origin mainly in two ways: (1) a sequence in the nucleus is found to closely match a sequence found in mitochondria, or (2) mitochondrial proteins are found to be encoded by the nuclear genome but not by the mitochondrial genome, and those proteins seem likely to have been necessary for sustaining life of the ...


5

Interesting question. I researched this a bit now and the phenomenon is termed "numt" for "nuclear mitochondrial DNA". This term descrives the transfer of cytoplasmic mitochondrial DNA sequences into the separate nuclear genome of a eukaryotic organism. It seems that most of these sequences are inactive. This list at pseudogene.net has a large number of ...


5

Lots of interesting questions! Let me try to address a few of them as I don't think I am qualified to answer them all but hopefully I can get this thread started. I am a graduate student in the biophysical chemistry field and have been following a little bit of the Crispr Cas9 craze in the last couple of years. So I am not an expert on Cas9 by any means but ...


5

To fully comprehend the concept of wobble base-pairing we need to consider the nucleotide sequences of the anti-codons in the tRNAs that have to "read" the genetic code when the mRNA is being translated on the ribosome. The nucleotide in the anti-codon's wobble position is, for example, often inosine. Under the rules for wobble base-pairing an Inosine can ...


5

Hummingbirds were not created, they evolved. Ancestors of a modern species need not be that morphologically different from their progeny, even over a time span of millions of years. And organism will fill a niche based on its fitness to survive in the niche. If there are strong selective pressures in the environment to maintain the traits that we see today,...


5

You are asking a very interesting question. As you correctly mention, the substrates of mitochondrial metabolism (TCA or Krebs Cycle) are pyruvate and NADH, and, through oxidative reactions, ATP is produced. Indeed, it seems unrealistic that when the "mitochondria" were by themselves there was pyruvate and NADH in the environment. Let's take a step back. ...


5

I think your acquaintance is trying to fit real science to some of his personal beliefs (that are obviously wrong). If you read the article you'll see that it's not about evolution at all, but about protein folding and what proportion of possible sequences gives a working protein. It turns out random sequences are not that likely to fold, which leads to ...


5

As @canadianer comments, this question is unanswerable, and it verges on being classified as ‘opinion-based’. However, because I do not find the answer from the OP appealing, I’ve set out a few points of my own. Hardly an answer — more a list of alternatives as food for thought. I can imagine adenine being chosen for one of the following reasons (others ...


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