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Question Regarding Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker

by CJ2116
Tags: blind, dawkins, watchmaker
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Aug18-13, 07:44 PM
P: 41
Hi everyone,

I'm currently reading Richard Dawkins' book The Blind Watchmaker and there is one part that had me really fascinated, but wasn't really explored in detail that much.

On page 249 he writes:

Duplication within the species isn't the only means by which the number of cooperating genes has increased in evolution. An even rarer, but still possibly very important occurrence, is the occasional incorporation of a gene from another species, even an extremely remote species. There are, for example, haemoglobins in the roots of plants of the pea family. They don't occur in any other plant families, and it seems almost certain that they somehow got into the pea family by cross infection from animals, viruses perhaps acting as intermediaries.
I know that some organisms (like anglerfish that use bio-luminescent bacteria, for example) can use other organisms in their own biochemistry, but I wasn't aware that a "cross infection", as he puts it, could occur.

Can anyone point me in the direction of some additional resources that explore this topic in detail? Preferably at the "pop science" level as my background is in math and physics, not biology!

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Aug19-13, 09:38 AM
Sci Advisor
P: 8,542
I'm not sure what Dawkins had in mind, but searching for "horizontal gene transfer plants" on Google turned up (paper is free using the PMC link at the top right of the page). The introduction of the paper could provide some leads.

Arredondo-Peter and Escamilla point to a hypothesis by Appleby et al that Dawkins may not be right on this point, and that there may be hemoglobins in other other plants. Some more current work seems to be described in and
Aug19-13, 09:50 AM
P: 41
Excellent, thanks for the reply - knowing the name of what he's talking about should help narrow down the results!

Aug19-13, 01:15 PM
P: 95
Question Regarding Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker

Here is another mention of the process...a host species maintains a complete copy of a parasite genome:

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