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ScienceDaily (Apr. 30, 2010) — The insects known as aphids can make their own essential nutrients called carotenoids, according to University of Arizona researchers.
. . .
"What happened is
a fungal gene got into an aphid and was copied," Moran said. She added that, although gene transfers between microorganisms are common, finding
a functional fungus gene as part of an animal's DNA is a first.
"Animals have a lot of requirements that reflect ancestral gene loss. This is why we require so many amino acids and vitamins in the diet," she said. "Until now it has been thought that there is simply no way to regain these lost capabilities. But this case in aphids shows that it is indeed possible to acquire the capacity to make needed compounds.
"Possibly this will be an extraordinarily rare case. But so far in genomic studies, a single initial case usually turns out to be only an example of something more widespread."
Pea aphids, known to scientists as Acyrthosiphon pisum, are either red or green. Aphids are clonal -- the mothers give birth to daughters that are genetically identical to their mothers. So when an aphid in the Moran lab's red 5A strain began giving birth to yellowish-green babies, Moran and her colleagues knew they were looking at the results of a mutation.
is it our seeming aversion to commingling across/between
species that makes this idea less immediately apparent?