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Thread: rapid mutation as a survival mechanism

  1. #1 rapid mutation as a survival mechanism 
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    Hey guys I read about this some time ago and can't remember distinctly the concept or even where I read it.It basically came down to something to the effect of, when an organism is exposed to stresses or potentially life threatening chemicals, changes in environment, etc, there is a mechanism in which dna mutation is sort of turned way up, so that a likely counter measure or solution to thr problem may be found via rapid mutation. As dna mutation may harm an organism this woukd have been used only in yhe most serious circumstances, and when a fix was found to the stress the muyayional frequency would be tuned down again, to normal levels.Im sure i have some details wrong but id like to read more about this. Anyone know what it is called or what im talking about? Thank you. Forgive typos



    Edit: now that I think about it what separates what im talking about from normal transcriptional mutations is that the dna is intentionally copied incorrectly. So that a new protein , i assume, could be created that would help with the stressor.


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    There is no such mechanism to turn up mutation. All organisms have the basic desire to stay exactly like they are (given some viruses who use DNA from the host to add to them).

    You are probably referring to the DNA repair mechanisms, who get affected under numberous changes in chemistry or other conditions.


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  4. #3  
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    Quote Originally Posted by howdidigethere View Post
    Hey guys I read about this some time ago and can't remember distinctly the concept or even where I read it.It basically came down to something to the effect of, when an organism is exposed to stresses or potentially life threatening chemicals, changes in environment, etc, there is a mechanism in which dna mutation is sort of turned way up, so that a likely counter measure or solution to thr problem may be found via rapid mutation. As dna mutation may harm an organism this woukd have been used only in yhe most serious circumstances, and when a fix was found to the stress the muyayional frequency would be tuned down again, to normal levels.Im sure i have some details wrong but id like to read more about this. Anyone know what it is called or what im talking about? Thank you. Forgive typos



    Edit: now that I think about it what separates what im talking about from normal transcriptional mutations is that the dna is intentionally copied incorrectly. So that a new protein , i assume, could be created that would help with the stressor.
    You might have been reading about quite controversial theories such as Adaptive Mutation which use examples such as lactose starvation and its impact on E Coli. More here and here. :-))
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  5. #4  
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    Quote Originally Posted by howdidigethere View Post
    Hey guys I read about this some time ago and can't remember distinctly the concept or even where I read it.It basically came down to something to the effect of, when an organism is exposed to stresses or potentially life threatening chemicals, changes in environment, etc, there is a mechanism in which dna mutation is sort of turned way up, so that a likely counter measure or solution to thr problem may be found via rapid mutation. As dna mutation may harm an organism this woukd have been used only in yhe most serious circumstances, and when a fix was found to the stress the muyayional frequency would be tuned down again, to normal levels.Im sure i have some details wrong but id like to read more about this. Anyone know what it is called or what im talking about? Thank you. Forgive typos



    Edit: now that I think about it what separates what im talking about from normal transcriptional mutations is that the dna is intentionally copied incorrectly. So that a new protein , i assume, could be created that would help with the stressor.
    look up epigenetics
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  6. #5  
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    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    look up epigenetics

    From Nature Education (Simmons, D., 2008):
    "Epigenetics involves genetic control by factors other than an individual's DNA sequence. Epigenetic changes can switch genes on or off and determine which proteins are transcribed."


    How exactly is this relevant?
    "The only safe rule is to dispute only with those of your acquaintance of whom you know that they possess sufficient intelligence and self-respect not to advance absurdities; to appeal to reason and not to authority, and to listen to reason and yield to it; and, finally, to be willing to accept reason even from an opponent, and to be just enough to bear being proved to be in the wrong."

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  7. #6  
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    rapid (a generation or 2) adaptation to changing environments/ecological niches

    relevant enough?
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  8. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    rapid (a generation or 2) adaptation to changing environments/ecological niches

    relevant enough?

    I still do not grasp its relevance. As I assume that my ignorance lies in the way of understanding your reasoning,
    would you be so kind to link your statement to the paper I have provided in post #5?
    Last edited by Cogito Ergo Sum; January 4th, 2014 at 05:54 PM.
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    ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument (1831), Stratagem XXXVIII.
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by howdidigethere View Post
    Hey guys I read about this some time ago and can't remember distinctly the concept or even where I read it.It basically came down to something to the effect of, when an organism is exposed to stresses or potentially life threatening chemicals, changes in environment, etc, there is a mechanism in which dna mutation is sort of turned way up, so that a likely counter measure or solution to thr problem may be found via rapid mutation. As dna mutation may harm an organism this woukd have been used only in yhe most serious circumstances, and when a fix was found to the stress the muyayional frequency would be tuned down again, to normal levels.Im sure i have some details wrong but id like to read more about this. Anyone know what it is called or what im talking about? Thank you. Forgive typos



    Edit: now that I think about it what separates what im talking about from normal transcriptional mutations is that the dna is intentionally copied incorrectly. So that a new protein , i assume, could be created that would help with the stressor.
    I do not believe in that concept. The way species survival works is through genetic diversity, which has very little to do with genetic mutation. In a highly diverse species, and as the environmental stress increases many individuals of that species will die. Those that don't are more genetically fit for the new environment and will live to pass on the genes that increase the odds of survival. That's why it's very important for a species to have as much genetic diversity as possible.
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  10. #9  
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    Your linked paper offers a very narrow view of epigenitics.
    It seems directed at mimicking naturally occuring epigenitic actions for the medical/pharmaceutical industry.
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zwolver View Post
    There is no such mechanism to turn up mutation. All organisms have the basic desire to stay exactly like they are (given some viruses who use DNA from the host to add to them).

    You are probably referring to the DNA repair mechanisms, who get affected under numberous changes in chemistry or other conditions.

    Perhaps stress can cause a mechanism to cause mutation ??

    I do (not) believe any of the following stress caused mutations are beneficial, but perhaps stress can cause DNA mutation?


    "Researchers speculate that stress might impact on the development of the unborn child by stimulating the release of the hormone cortisone."
    ex.ex.ex.

    BBC News | HEALTH | Pregnancy stress 'causes defects'
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  12. #11  
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    Quote Originally Posted by chad View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Zwolver View Post
    There is no such mechanism to turn up mutation. All organisms have the basic desire to stay exactly like they are (given some viruses who use DNA from the host to add to them).

    You are probably referring to the DNA repair mechanisms, who get affected under numberous changes in chemistry or other conditions.

    Perhaps stress can cause a mechanism to cause mutation ??

    I do (not) believe any of the following stress caused mutations are beneficial, but perhaps stress can cause DNA mutation?


    "Researchers speculate that stress might impact on the development of the unborn child by stimulating the release of the hormone cortisone."
    ex.ex.ex.

    BBC News | HEALTH | Pregnancy stress 'causes defects'
    It is very interesting. I am aware of hypothesis put forward by epigenetics where instances of poor nutrition may result in the prospect of epigenetic markers being carried forward to future generations, but I am not so sure it is necessary to invoke mutation rates as such as a significant causal factor. For instance the transfer of chemistry in the gamete itself and its impact on DNA methylation and chromatin modelling may be sufficient to impact on phenotyic expressions of the subsequent generational genome.

    I tend to therefore seperate notions of mutation rate into the "Adaptive Mutation camp" (changes affecting the DNA sequence directly) as opposed to the "Epigenetic camp" (eg. changes from external factors on the DNA sequence) as a possible contributor that may in a small or large way contribute to speeding up evolutionary processes. I then just include these as possible natural extensions to Neo-Darwinism (with other hypotheis such as Reverse Transcription, Symbiotic co-evolution etc.) to put further axes into the 'creationist intelligent design debate'.....not that I am being mean or anything or carry any grudges, but in my youth a number of Sundays were wasted when I could have been watching cricket/TIC :-))
    Last edited by Implicate Order; January 5th, 2014 at 08:44 AM.
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    Found it guys. Called "natural genetic engineering." Was a theory by James shapiro
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  14. #13  
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    Well said I.O.
    epigenetics represents not a genetic mutation per se, but modification of utilization of extant genetic materials for different circumstances.

    I suspect that we know less than 10% about how these available genetic controls work.

    .............................
    as/re Shapiro
    Do we have a consensus on just what "rapid" means?
    Last edited by sculptor; January 5th, 2014 at 03:11 PM.
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    Do we have a consensus on just what "rapid" means?
    For these sorts of cases, I'd say it means just fast enough to keep one step ahead of the environmental changes.

    But really. The best way to survive rapid environmental change is
    1) geographic access to more amenable, more survivable conditions (so don't be completely restricted to an island or a mountaintop)
    2) a large enough population with enough genetic variation so that there are sub-groups within the population capable of surviving hotter, colder, wetter, drier conditions.
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  16. #15  
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    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    Do we have a consensus on just what "rapid" means?
    I think this reflects an age old debate between Gould (supporter of organisms being more important than genes) and Dawkins (supporter of the selfish gene) and their arguments relating to notions of gradualism (more central to Dawkins argument) versus punctuated equilibrium (more central to Gould's argument). Just observing natural systems and the way new available niches are rapidly expolited by emergent species has always put me in the Gould camp regarding this. Unfortunately Dawkins has always been an excellent communicator and his rapidity of response and coherent arguments have tended to dominate the debate.

    Also the notion of rapidity is paramount to douse the creationists debate about the length of time required to allow for life's complexity through evolution versus the role an intelligent designer can take in fast-tracking things. If there are plausible examples that can justify rapid and intense changes across a range of species in a brief interval of time without the need for intelligent design intervention, this hoses down the creationists argument regarding the need for much larger periods of time to support neo-darwinism that is evident in the fossil record.

    :-))
    Last edited by Implicate Order; January 5th, 2014 at 08:21 PM.
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  17. #16  
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    Anyone know how many generations it took the wrangle island mammoths to dwarf?
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  18. #17  
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    sub-groups within the population
    How do you promote subgroups if they breed freely within the entire range? Perhaps there's more to the hominid tendency to culturally-instigated clannishness than we know.
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    How do you promote subgroups if they breed freely within the entire range?
    You don't "promote" sub-groups. In any population of any species, genetic variation means that some individuals are more (or less) susceptible to some illnesses or environments while other individuals are similarly advantaged (or less likely to survive) in relation to other illnesses or circumstances.

    When it comes to humans, we know that some individuals can be more robust in the face of hot or dry or cold or wet conditions or some contagious diseases. We have no idea what genes might or might not affect this for any particular set of circumstances. The obvious one that many people worry about at the moment is the large number of obese people who are susceptible to diabetes. However, if we were to move to a situation of limited food available for the population generally, families of people with this kind of metabolism might be more robust and more likely to survive than others. What looks like a negative interaction between environment and genetic propensities could become positive for some individuals in a different environment.
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  20. #19  
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    How do you promote subgroups if they breed freely within the entire range?
    You don't "promote" sub-groups.
    I meant how do subgroups come about, how do they become more or less isolated from the overall population. As for hominids including our ancestors it seems obvious.
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  21. #20  
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    I meant how do subgroups come about, how do they become more or less isolated from the overall population.
    Well, for species generally, some can do better in their original environment by specialising - some fish do well close in to shore in shallow waters, others find their niche at the oceanward side of coral reefs or in deep water or by becoming more (or less) migratory than others that were once more similar to them. Some of these preferences or specialties can become disadvantageous in some locations - if a river on land changes its course certain parts of sea shore become more (and others become less) enriched - or polluted - by silt when the river floods or the balance between fresh and salt water changes to the benefit or detriment of different species. Whether these changes are direct effects on the creatures in question or indirect by decreasing or increasing the availability of food or of habitat for mating or raising their young makes no difference really unless you're a zoologist or park ranger or fisheries department interested in maintaining numbers of that species.

    The same sort of thing happens for animals where some individuals specialise towards an extreme environment like a perpetually ice and snowbound mountaintop, or a perpetually damp forest floor and in the process become an isolated "ring species" with few options for interbreeding. A succession of warm years might mean a severe reduction in the population of a creature too tightly constrained to a narrow temperature range or very particular environmental conditions at the top of a mountain. A severe storm can knock down a lot of trees in any forest - if that event is followed by months or years of dry, windy conditions drying out the damp conditions needed for food or reproduction by a particular critter, their numbers can be reduced. Reduce them too far and you finish up with extinction.

    For both cases, if the lizard/insect/fungus has enough genetic diversity then there will be some individuals which can survive and reproduce in the adverse conditions. If there are enough of these individuals, the species will survive in a marginally different form. If not, not at all.

    My own - totally unsupported - suspicion about some of the current species we know about that are severely restricted in their diet or preferred habitats is that some of them, couldn't possibly say which specific ones, are the consequences of this process. They may once have had much more diversity in their genetic makeup, but certain events occurred that made those with a particular subset of those genes the sole survivors. Whether they became geographically isolated within a forest remnant with a restricted range of foods or most of the species was wiped out by a disease and the ones who were able to resist it happened to do so only because the genetic variant which allowed that survival came in a package which restricted other flexibilities. And they're now stuck with far too specific requirements to survive any serious perturbation of their now restricted environments/ diets/ reproductive strategies.

    And for us? This doesn't apply really to the universal, versatile omnivores like us and rats, pigs, dogs and the like. Even if we had a repetition of a devastating pandemic like the 1918 flu or old-fashioned plague (or we wreck our supply of antibiotics by overuse so that manageable illnesses become more dangerous), there'd still be a lot of us left to keep the species going.

    Same things go for most catastrophes - short of a huge asteroid strike wiping out all land animals larger than, say, a platypus. We could have worldwide food shortages after a massive volcanic eruption, but even though many/most people would starve and die due to the lack of crops for a couple of years in those circumstances, there'd still be a pretty sizeable number of us left to continue the species.

    EDIT: Sorry this is so long. I've just been dabbling with this while watching teev. Didn't realise it'd turned into an essay.
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  22. #21  
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    Quote Originally Posted by howdidigethere View Post
    Found it guys. Called "natural genetic engineering." Was a theory by James shapiro
    Here is an article by him about it:
    James A. Shapiro: What Natural Genetic Engineering Does and Does Not Mean

    And some discussion/background here:
    Natural genetic engineering - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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  23. #22  
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    @adelady, Hey your ramble, my pleasure.

    The fish diverging by habit is close to home. British Columbia had all these islands with bays exposed after the glacial retreat, then a homogenous species of marine stickleback cut off as land rebounded and bays became lakes. Really precise isolation dates to compare with other populations of similarly trapped populations. Now each lake includes multiple distinct populations of sticklebacks even with different courtship rituals. I wonder, is the divergent courtship ritual merely a result of the different habits (e.g. shore vs. bottom) or is it helping drive speciation?

    The reason I wonder is that with humans, probably at least to the time of our split with chimpanzees, we've had a nasty social trait driving diversity and speciation. We deliberately split into exclusive groups. Any cultural difference can set us off, or failing that we'll make one up. Chimps likewise - why presumably the trait's been around a long time. So viewing whatever genes are responsible for clannishness (well, war to state it provocatively) viewing these as common to hominids then I think they begin to make sense: Those genes do well to have their host population - the hominids generally - clanning themselves apart at the drop of a hat.

    I used hominids as a well known illustration, but I guess the trait of willful divergence is common elsewhere. Note this isn't simply circumstantial diversity. No clue what conditions it thrives in.

    If I'm not making sense, fine. The established interpretation of such behavour within a species is that subpopulations are just striving selfishly in their various ways, there is no larger strategic set of genes promoting that.



    "Couldn't possibly say which" species are severely restricted in their diet or preferred habitats... because they represent one weird surviving subgroup from a formerly diverse population? I'm trying not to think of giant pandas. I'm trying really hard.

    One solution (to disprove pandas only) would be an earlier homogenous population of pandas that ate much as grizzly bears do - an omnivorous diet characterized by seasonal focus on one food. E.g. some grizzlies spend a full month exclusively grazing grass meadows like so many cows. So the hypothetical pre-panda may have migrated to bamboo forests only, for bamboo shoots seasonally... but environmental changes could make bamboo an increasingly needed fallback, ultimately the exclusive diet.

    Anyway your speculation seems viable to me. You'd have to name species to try it on, if you care to pursue it.
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  24. #23  
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    We deliberately split into exclusive groups. Any cultural difference can set us off, or failing that we'll make one up.
    Not really. We're set up to be very social and very reliant on our social group for physical survival and for personal satisfaction/ contentment. We're also strongly inclined to protect and to prefer our own children/ family. This results in us having a natural inclination to function best in groups of up to 50 and reasonably well up to a hundred or so. More than that and we need different strategies to maintain consistently peaceful or cordial relationships.

    Our intelligence and our versatility means that different groups can come up with wildly different attitudes and cultural preferences and the rationalisations to justify them. Some groups make hospitality, even to total strangers, an absolute social obligation while others who live quite close by treat any trivial indication of difference within the group as a signal or trigger justifying social exclusion or even violence - strangers don't get so much as a look-in.
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  25. #24  
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    You make it sound that tribe/culture divisions just happen, and we then stress our differences. Sure this isn't other way around? Does this apply to our chimpanzee cousins?
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    Does this apply to our chimpanzee cousins?
    Which ones? The chimps or the bonobos?

    That's a classic example of very little genetic difference between groups (they were once thought to be the exact same species) with huge differences in social behaviours and in the "atmosphere" prevailing within the two kinds of groups. One kind has very strict hierarchies and can be very, very aggressive and some high status and/or competitive individuals can be extremely dangerous to others within the group. The other kind finds any and all members act promptly in soothing and friendly, usually sexual, ways to calm any hints of aggression or distress arising from anyone in the group.
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  27. #26  
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    Bonobos are exceptional for their ...hospitality.

    I had common chimpanzees in mind. So between groups of chimpanzees there are differences, and there are divisions. Does one precede the other? I'm trying to see what might cause diversity in a species whose circumstances don't naturally promote it.
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