Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

A New Tree Of Life Allows A Closer Look At The Origin Of Species

Date:
March 4, 2006
Source:
European Molecular Biology Laboratory
Summary:
A group at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg has developed a computational method that resolves many of the remaining open questions about evolution and has produced what is likely the most accurate tree of life ever. The study, which appears in the current issue of the journal Science, gives some intriguing insights into the origins of bacteria and the last common universal ancestor of all life on earth today.

A group at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg has developed a computational method that resolves many of the remaining open questions about evolution and has produced what is likely the most accurate tree of life ever. The study, which appears in the current issue of the journal Science, gives some intriguing insights into the origins of bacteria and the last common universal ancestor of all life on earth today.
Credit: Image courtesy of European Molecular Biology Laboratory

In 1870 the German scientist Ernst Haeckel mapped the evolutionary relationships of plants and animals in the first 'tree of life'. Since then scientists have continuously redrawn and expanded the tree adding microorganisms and using modern molecular data, yet, many parts of the tree have remained unclear. Now a group at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg has developed a computational method that resolves many of the open questions and produced what is likely the most accurate tree ever. The study, which appears in the current issue of the journal Science, gives some intriguing insights into the origins of bacteria and the last common universal ancestor of all life on earth today.

"DNA sequences of complete genomes provide us with a direct record of evolution", says Peer Bork, Associate Coordinator for Structural and Computational Biology at EMBL, whose group carried out the project. "For a long time the overwhelming amount of data (the human genome alone contains enough information to fill 200 telephone books) has made it very difficult to pinpoint the information needed for a high-resolution map of evolution. But our study shows how this challenge can be tackled by combining different computational methods in an automated process."

Bork's lab specialises in the computational analysis of genomes, and recently they applied this expertise to the tree of life. Since all organisms descend from the same ancestor, they share some common genes. Francesca Ciccarelli and Tobias Doerks of Bork's group managed to identify 31 genes with clear relatives in 191 organisms, ranging from bacteria to humans, to reconstruct their relationships.

"Even using such genes, you might get the wrong answer," says Ciccarelli. "Organisms inherit most genes from their parents, but over the course of evolution, a few have been obtained when organisms swapped genes with their neighbours in a process called horizontal gene transfer (HGT). Obviously, the latter class of genes does not tell you anything about your ancestors. The trick was to identify and exclude them from the analysis."

"This procedure drastically reduced the 'noise' in the data, making it possible to identify as yet unknown details of early evolution," says Tobias Doerks. "For example, we now know that the first bacterium was probably a type called gram-positive and likely lived at high temperatures -- suggesting that all life arose in hot environments."

The improved tree has also shed light on other research carried out by the group. Bork and colleagues are participating in projects that collect genetic material of unknown species en masse from environments such as farm soil and ocean floor. "With the new high-resolution tree in hand, it is now possible to classify genetic material from this unexplored microbial world and further our understanding of life on the planet."



Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Molecular Biology Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

European Molecular Biology Laboratory. "A New Tree Of Life Allows A Closer Look At The Origin Of Species." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 March 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/03/060303111420.htm>.
European Molecular Biology Laboratory. (2006, March 4). A New Tree Of Life Allows A Closer Look At The Origin Of Species. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/03/060303111420.htm
European Molecular Biology Laboratory. "A New Tree Of Life Allows A Closer Look At The Origin Of Species." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/03/060303111420.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Monkeys Are Better At Math Than We Thought, Study Shows

Monkeys Are Better At Math Than We Thought, Study Shows

Newsy (Apr. 23, 2014) A Harvard University study suggests monkeys can use symbols to perform basic math calculations. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India

Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) A leopard caused panic in the city of Chandrapur on Monday when it sprung from the roof of a house and charged at rescue workers. (April 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs

Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) Drake University hosts 35th annual Beautiful Bulldog Contest. (April 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
805-Pound Shark Caught Off The Coast Of Florida

805-Pound Shark Caught Off The Coast Of Florida

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) One Florida fisherman caught a 805-pound shark off the coast of Florida earlier this month. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins