Monday, January 25, 2010

Biology is Weird

...and that's one reason why I like it. Consider: the selective inefficiency of complex organisms like mammals is one reason why we become more complex, according to a recent paper published in Genome Research. In simple, rapidly reproducing organisms like our single-celled cousins, gene duplications get eliminated reasonably quickly because they're a resource drain. But in complex organisms that tend to have smaller populations and longer generation times, these redundant paralogs can survive, and this often leads to specialization as paralogs diverge via mutation. I mean, it's not all that surprising to consider gene duplication as a significant mechanism for introducing variation and complexity (once you realize that it happens, anyway), but the idea that these occurrences depend on our poor selection is kind of a mind-bender.

...on an unrelated note: looking at this post, I realized that I'm falling prey to sesquipedalian loquaciousness, i.e. I'm using more big words than I need to. That's not good, even for my writing seminar--I bet profs get annoyed by roundabout expressions and overly complex language just as much as any other reader. Time to cut back. (...I think it's working!)

1 comment:

Alioth said...

I don't think your first paragraph was too sesquipedalian at all. You're just using a lot of biology jargon and not entirely comfortable in that skin yet. It can be worthwhile to learn to explain stuff in a less technical dialect -- it's part of the point of science blogging, after all. Explaining things in layman's terms is a little like teaching in that it forces you to clarify and re-understand your own statements.

Also... yeah, I love this idea. My favorite analogy is that prokaryotes are like zippy little scooters that do one thing well and simply, while eukaryotes are like huge lumbering luxury SUVs with all the options.