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article imageCommon gene for sperm is 600 million years old

By Paul Wallis     Jul 19, 2010 in Science
A gene called Boule has been identified by Northwestern University researchers as the common ancestor of all sperm. It’s the only gene which is specific to sperm in species from flies to humans.
Guys can form their own opinion of the fact that this discovery is likely to be useful in pesticides.
The ancient gene dates back to the earliest era of life on Earth. This discovery is important, because it’s helping to unravel a major issue in genetic evolution. For example- The difference in a human and a chimp genome is only 2%. That’s how much difference a relatively small genetic level of variation can achieve.
The questions are:
· How to track the common and variant elements
· How to find the points of separation
This is like trying to construct a family tree, when you’re not even sure of the family’s surname. The Boule gene is one of the first in a very long line of links between the origin of life and the present.
The trans-species characteristic of the Boule gene are a real win for evolutionary theory. The gene is effectively Cambrian in origin. This proves a very strong evolutionary pathway for basic genetic characteristics.
The finding also presents a major scientific issue: If something as basic as sperm can be transgenic, what else? Prior theory wasn’t exactly strong on a multi-phylum shared gene concept. Although it makes sense in terms of “rewind evolution”, tracing back through common ancestors at the zoological level, at gene level, there’s not much backward movement, and their lineage can be hard to track.
The other major pillar of evolution, environment, is also an interesting sidelight. The environments between the Cambrian and the present have been utterly different, including hot, cold, oxygen rich and oxygen poor environments. The Boule gene obviously meets some pretty stringent “survival of the fittest” criteria on that basis. How it did that will be an equally obvious line of research.
This research is likely to create a benchmark for new areas of research, and likely to have future generations just as busy trying to unravel the new classes of biological questions it raises.
More about Evolution, Northwestern university, Boule gene
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