DAILY DOSE: A single mutation in a single supergene can cause warp-speed evolution.


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Genetics never ceases to amaze and eat its own. Epigenetics showed that you can actually inherit adaptive traits from your parents and that there’s a lot more going on beyond the genome-proper. A recent paper looked at how mutations in so-called supergenes can have crazy effects. Per Science

Among the predatory ants known as clonal raiders, worker ants called scouts track down the nests of other ant species, then recruit more workers to help steal that species’ young to be meals for their own colony (first video, below). But in at least one colony, those other workers have sprouted wings like queen ants and don’t budge from the comforts of their nest (second video, below). That’s because a genetic mutation has turned them into parasitic slackers that do little more than lay eggs and consume the food gathered by others, researchers reported last week in Current Biology. These newly discovered parasites may be an example of how mutations in “supergenes,” or clusters of genes that get inherited together, can kick evolution into warp speed.

“This paper provides the clearest evidence to date that a complex set of traits can emerge in a single mutational step,” says Jessica Purcell, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Riverside (UCR), who was not involved with the work. That such genetic changes could lead to rapid evolution had been proposed more than a decade ago, but there was no good evidence for the idea, adds Christian Rabeling, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Hohenheim who was also not involved with the new study. “Now they show that something like that can actually happen.”

That’s pretty amazing. Does this make the notion of punctuated equilibrium more likely? https://bit.ly/3YrOIG3

A recent cyberattack in Spain proved that nothing is off the table when it comes to who or what criminals will target. Per the Associated Press,

A ransomware cyberattack on one of Barcelona’ s main hospitals has crippled the center’s computer system and forced the cancellation of 150 nonurgent operations and up to 3,000 patient checkups, officials said Monday.

The attack Sunday on the Hospital Clinic de Barcelona shut down computers at the facility’s laboratories, emergency room and pharmacy at three main centers and several external clinics.

“We can’t make any prediction as to when the system will be back up to normal,” hospital director Antoni Castells told a news conference on Monday. He said the hospital’s contingency plan would allow them to function for several days, but he hoped the system would be fixed sooner.

A Catalonia regional government statement said the region’s Cybersecurity Agency was working to restore the system. The agency said Monday the attack was orchestrated from outside of Spain by a group called “Ransom House.”

The state of humanity… Depressing. http://bit.ly/3mvjBfp

Nuclear power proponents in the United States rejoice, you got what you wanted in the South. Per the AP,

A nuclear power plant in Georgia has begun splitting atoms in one of its two new reactors, Georgia Power said Monday, a key step toward reaching commercial operation at the first new nuclear reactors built from scratch in decades in the United States.

The unit of Atlanta-based Southern Co. said operators reached self-sustaining nuclear fission inside the reactor at Plant Vogtle, southeast of Augusta. That makes the intense heat that will be used to produce steam and spin turbines to generate electricity.

A third and a fourth reactor were approved for construction at Vogtle by the Georgia Public Service Commission in 2009, and the third reactor was supposed to start generating power in 2016. The company now says Unit 3 could begin commercial operation in May or June.

Unit 4 is projected to begin commercial operation sometime between this November and March 2024.

Nuclear energy. If it works, it works. What can you say other than hope a meltdown never happens. Since they don’t, right? Right… http://bit.ly/3kTAFeB

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

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