Meet Your Ancestor — The Sponge

AT the website of the University of California, Berkeley we read Genome of ancient sponge reveals origins of first animals, cancer . Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

The sponge, which was not recognized as an animal until the 19th century, is now the simplest and most ancient group of animals to have their genome sequenced.

In a paper appearing in the August 5 issue of the journal Nature, a team of researchers led by Daniel Rokhsar of the University of California, Berkeley, and the Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute (JGI), report the draft genome sequence of the sea sponge Amphimedon queenslandica and several insights the genome gives into the origins of both the first animals and cancer.

What did they learn? Let’s read on:

All living animals are descended from the common ancestor of sponges and humans, which lived more than 600 million years ago. A sponge-like creature may have been the first organism with more than one cell type and the ability to develop from a fertilized egg produced by the merger of sperm and egg cells – that is, an animal.

The creationists are squirming. We continue:

As part of the new analysis, the team looked in the sponge genome for more than 100 genes that have been implicated in human cancers and found about 90 percent of them. Future research will show what roles these genes play in endowing sponge cells with team spirit.

Thanks for the inheritance, guys. Skipping a bit, here’s more:

The authors also identified in the sponge many of the same genes that characterize all other animals: genes involved not only in cell division and growth, but also in programmed cell death; the adhesion of cells to other tissue and to one another, signaling pathways during development, recognition of self and non-self; and genes leading to the formation of different cell types.

[…]

“This incredibly old ancestor possessed the same core building blocks for multicellular form and function that still sits at the heart of all living animals, including humans,” said coauthor Bernie Degnan, a professor of biology at the University of Queensland, Australia, who collected the sponge whose genome was sequenced from the Great Barrier Reef. “It now appears that the evolution of these genes not only allowed the first animals to colonize the ancient oceans, but underpinned the evolution of the full biodiversity of animals we see today.”

According to Degnan, essentially all the genomic innovations that we deem necessary for intricate modern animal life have their origins much further back in time that anyone anticipated, predating the Cambrian explosion by tens if not hundreds of millions of years.

Gasp! Predating the Cambrian? Well, there goes Darwin’s Dilemma. Moving along:

“What marked the evolutionary origin of animals was the ability of individual cells to assume specialized properties and work together for the greater good of the entire organism. The sponge represents a window on this ancient and momentous event,” said coauthor Dr. Kenneth S. Kosik, the Harriman Professor of Neuroscience at UC Santa Barbara and co-director of the Neuroscience Research Institute.

“Remarkably, the sponge genome now reveals that, along the way toward the emergence of animals, genes for an entire network of many specialized cells evolved and laid the basis for the core gene logic of organisms that no longer functioned as single cells,” he said, “but as a cooperative community of specialized cells all geared toward the survival of a complex multi-cellular creature.”

Aha! The creationists still have an argument. A “cooperative community” requires a Community Organizer. One last excerpt:

“Sponges produce an amazing array of chemicals of direct interest to the pharmaceutical industry,” he [Degnan] said. “They also biofabricate silica fibers directly from sea water in an environmentally benign manner, which is of great interest in communications. With the genome in hand, we can decipher the methods used by these simple animals to produce materials that far exceed our current engineering and chemistry capabilities.”

Your Curmudgeon is proud of his ancestors. We hope that you are too.

Update: The Sponge is Proof of Creationism.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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7 responses to “Meet Your Ancestor — The Sponge

  1. retiredsciguy

    I have been accused of being a sponge. Now I have an excuse!

  2. you mean over the pond you hadnt worked out that soft bodied life dosnt leave fossils behind (usually anyway) and that was the probable reason fossils of early life forms are so hard to find?

    [Dear] me what do you guys learn in school? Obviously no geology or chemistry.

  3. SC Said:

    ‘A “cooperative community” requires a Community Organizer.’

    Good one! I like that. Is a community organizer something like a ‘small-town’ mayor?

  4. the team looked in the sponge genome for more than 100 genes that have been implicated in human cancers and found about 90 percent of them.

    Pretty much all life inherited these cancer-related genes? That sucks!

    Well, on the bright side I guess it gives scientists a lot of potential non-human models for cancer-fighting research.

    I wonder what the ID argument for their inclusion is (without giving up the game and citing original sin, of course)? 🙂

  5. Carson coyly asks:

    Is a community organizer something like a ‘small-town’ mayor?

    Don’t get me started.

  6. “coauthor Bernie Degnan, a professor of biology at the University of Queensland, Australia”

    I do hope this helps prove we Queenslanders aren’t all idiots after the unpleasentness of a few days ago, viz-a-viz the weirdos in Religious Educuation…..

  7. Richard says:

    I do hope this helps prove we Queenslanders aren’t all idiots …

    Yes, you’re not all idiots. But it’s starting to look like the Americans will soon be able to make the “all idiots” claim for themselves.