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Sharing = Evolution

Researchers have long known that bacteria and archaea can alter, lose, or duplicate their genes almost at will in order to survive in a range of environments, says Scientific American's Carrie Arnold. While it's also known that bacteria can also acquire genes from their neighbors — a trait that can lead to antibiotic resistance — it was thought that this kind of horizontal gene transfer was rare and occurred only under strong environmental pressures, Arnold says. However, a new study recently published in PLoS Genetics shows that horizontal gene transfer happens often and can even happen between prokaryotes of different species. The study's authors calculate that the prokaryotes they studied acquired between 88 and 98 percent of new genes through horizontal transfer," Arnold says. The transfer allows the prokaryotes to establish themselves in new environments, and the study's authors tell Arnold their work shows that horizontal gene transfer is the dominant force behind the evolution of prokaryotes.

The Scan

Billions for Antivirals

The US is putting $3.2 billion toward a program to develop antivirals to treat COVID-19 in its early stages, the Wall Street Journal reports.

NFT of the Web

Tim Berners-Lee, who developed the World Wide Web, is auctioning its original source code as a non-fungible token, Reuters reports.

23andMe on the Nasdaq

23andMe's shares rose more than 20 percent following its merger with a special purpose acquisition company, as GenomeWeb has reported.

Science Papers Present GWAS of Brain Structure, System for Controlled Gene Transfer

In Science this week: genome-wide association study ties variants to white matter stricture in the brain, and more.