Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Symbiosis and speciation

Back in 2009, when my colleagues and I did the Genesis Kinds conference, Joe Francis made the intriguing suggestion that symbiosis could be a cause of rapid speciation within baramins.  Now this is no news to evolutionary biologists, but for creationists, this was pretty different.  Thanks to Margulis, knowledge of symbiosis and its role in evolution is pretty well known, but creationists have generally looked to genetic or genomic factors to account for speciation.  So in our arena of rapid speciation, Joe's suggestion was pretty interesting.

In that light, this week's PNAS has an interesting paper that directly relates to some of what Joe was talking about in his paper.  Kikuchi et al. report on insecticide resistance in stinkbugs that is conferred by a symbiotic bacterium called Burkholderia.  They found that in soil treated with the insecticide fenitrothion, the bacteria became enriched with strains capable of degrading fenitrothion, which then led to an enrichment in stinkbugs harboring symbiotic bacteria capable of degrading the pesticide!  Rapid biological change within a single generation!  That's exciting stuff.

Check out the full open access paper at PNAS, and if you're interested in Joe's paper, it's available in the Genesis Kinds monograph.

Kikuchi et al. 2012. Symbiont-mediated insecticide resistance.  PNAS 109:8618-8622.

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