Magical Rotifers

Had to share because of the quotes below. For their next trick, rotifers will…?

“This is very unusual and has not been previously reported,” Arkhipova said. “Horizontally transferred genes are thought to preferentially be operational genes, not regulatory genes. It is hard to imagine how a single, horizontally transferred gene would form a new regulatory system, because the existing regulatory systems are already very complicated.”

“It’s almost unbelievable,” said co-first author Irina Yushenova, a research scientist in Arkhipova’s lab.

Yushenova explained how this process would have occurred: “Just try to picture, somewhere back in time, a piece of bacterial DNA happened to be fused to a piece of eukaryotic DNA. Both of them became joined in the rotifer’s genome and they formed a functional enzyme. That’s not so easy to do, even in the lab, and it happened naturally. And then this composite enzyme created this amazing regulatory system, and bdelloid rotifers were able to start using it to control all these jumping transposons. It’s like magic.”

Thanks for that excellent refutation of intelligent design. Certainly no competent designer would create such a kludge. Thanks also for this fine example of science press release hype.


You’re welcome. Thanks for the new (to me) word.

Seems pretty efficient though. You prefer the just so story?

Yeah, it’s certainly not “new.”

There’s no mention in the article of efficiency. Jamming together two unrelated sequences is indeed a kludge. And wouldn’t the just so story be “God did it”? Several of Kipling’s stories do feature divine intervention; I remember in particular the kangaroo story (three gods, a trinity!) and the crab story.


As they are resistant to radiation, rotifers will survive the coming nuclear war, and over the next half billion years evolve to sentient beings who insist everything is only six thousand years old and that no kind can ever evolve to another.


Hey, they’ve already invented the wheel.


The argument from quotations-of-hyperbolic-press-release has become rather stale at this juncture.


Based on the evidence? Did you examine the evidence, or are you going on rhetoric only?

What I thought was it was just another problem with the predictions of evolutionary theory. HGT seems rather problematic here - and that’s an understatement. I thought it was interesting that the scientists here researched this and yet still say it’s “like magic.” (They are committed enough to evolutionary theory to create a just-so story.) Even though problems with homology have been found and will continue to be found.

Sure. That transposons don’t proliferate in rotifers.

“God did it” doesn’t purport to be a natural explanation.

But also I shared because I thought the science was really cool

How so? What is the problem for the predictions of evolutionary theory?

That just seems to be another way of a saying it isn’t at all an explanation, since it has no explanatory power or scope.

I have experienced magic. Being a guy who previously took children to be a duty and a checkmark, I was completely unprepared for the overwhelming tidal wave experience of the moment of fatherhood. But even then never did I doubt that it was fully explicable in terms of biology, and that I will leave there. I find life to be magical, the processes of life to be no less so. I read in amazement developmental biology; the making of a baby from a single cell with differentiation controlled by gradients of chemical and molecular signaling. “This works???” But it does.

When a journal published paper titled “Magic Identified as the Mechanism of Genetic Change” is recognized as the seminal insight of the decade, you would have something. As an expression of awe, unbelievable and magical may be somewhat exuberant, but fall within usage. At times, I have found it unbelievable when another member of the team merely delivered on their task.


But it does purport to be an explanation. Emphasis on “purport”.

Yes, of course that’s why you shared. Nothing to do with attacking evolutionary biology and supporting creationism.


Which mechanism and which prediction?


I don’t see a just-so story there. They found something interesting and addressed it mechanistically. Do you think we do biology because it’s not interesting and amazing?

Do you think this T-shirt has anything to do with just-so stories? BTW, I own it:

You don’t seem to have understood the evidence at all. That’s not the interesting part. The interesting part is how that is done.

That makes no sense. Since when are just-so stories limited to natural explanations?

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I actually pointed to two just so stories in which gods are the causes. There are some others in which magic is the cause, e.g. The Butterfly Who Stomped.

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HGT is a natural mechanism that produces variation which is then filtered through natural selection. This is a problem for evolution how?

We observe HGT occurring all of the time in nature. How is it a just-so story?


"Magical Rotifers" was a breakfast cereal developed by General Mills in the early 1960’s and tested in just a few East Coast markets before being declared a dismal failure.

Nevertheless, the crunchy oat pieces were soon re-branded, recast as more traditional whimsical shapes, and the completely redesigned cereal box replaced the somewhat disturbing Roger the Rastafarian Rotifer™ with a mischievous but good-natured, fashion-conscious Irishman suffering from congenital hypothyroidism.

And as they say, the rest is history—and known to millions as Lucky Charms™.

The moral of the story: It pays to think both inside and outside of the box.

The second moral of the story: Intersectionalism must be weighed carefully when applied to the general consumer marketplace.

The third moral of the story: even the most fun depictions of pseudocoelomate zooplanktons and their kin tend to test poorly with focus groups.


Precisely that, I guess. It happens “just so” damned often. That’s the best kind of “just so” story.

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