Gene Transfer in the Primitive Ocean

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Some of the most critical evolutionary innovations occurred within single-celled prokaryotic organisms in the primitive ocean, such as the development of flagellar motility and the invention of oxidative photosynthesis. Prokaryotes have multiple vectors to exchange genetic material including transduction, transformation and conjugation. Being able to exchange genetic information allows important novel genes to be built up more quickly than if the population were waiting for the proper mutations to arise in a single lineage. However, these methods of genetic exchange require two differing lineages containing subsections of the novel gene to be in close proximity. Here we consider whether the transport properties of the primitive ocean may have accelerated this process. We consider two genetic components which arise via mutation at the same rate within a large background population and afford no selective advantage on their own. Once the pieces are combined via horizontal gene transfer in a single lineage, the selective advantage is immense. We examine the role of different fluid flows and components of complex oceanic flow on the time until the two lineages are united via theory and simulation.

arXiv, PDF

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