This Bizarre Organism Builds Itself a New Genome Every Time It Has Sex
by Greg Miller
Oxytricha trifallax, a ciliophore protozoan, lives in ponds all over the world. Under an electron microscope it looks like a football adorned with tassels. The tiny fringes are the cilia it uses to move around and gobble up algae. What makes Oxytricha unusual, however, is the crazy things it does with its DNA.
Unlike humans and most other organisms on Earth, Oxytricha doesn’t have sex to increase its numbers. It has sex to reinvent itself.
When its food is plentiful, Oxytricha reproduces by making imperfect clones of itself, much like a new plant can grow from a cutting. “If they’re well fed, they won’t mate,” said Laura Landweber, a molecular biologist at Princeton University and lead author of a recent study on Oxytricha genetics. But when Oxytricha gets hungry or stressed, it goes looking for sex.
When two cells come together (as in the image above), the ultimate result is: two cells. “They’ve perfected the art of sex without reproduction,” Landweber said. The exterior of the two cells remains, but each cell swaps half of its genome with the other. “They’re entering into this pact where each one is going to be 50 percent transformed,” Landweber said. “They emerge with a rejuvenated genome.”…
Black tomatoes are the so-called super vegetable among the first in the world that contains anthocyanin – an antioxidant that may help in the battle against cancer that kills cancer cells. The Unusual color of tomatoes comes from a pigment that turns tomatoes black when exposed to sunlight.
Amsterdam-based artist Cedric Laquieze (previously featured here) recently completed a fascinating new series of his exquisite taxidermy Fairies. These delicate sculptures are primarily composed of parts from many different insect species, but if you look closely you’ll notice bones, seeds and even a few scorpion parts as well.
Visit Cedric Laquieze’s blog for many additional images and to check out some of his other enchanting creations.