Small freshwater invertebrates known as rotifers have the uncanny ability to capture bits of DNA from other organisms and assimilate that genetic code, scientists have found. Writing this week in the journal Science, the researchers report that the genome of bdelloid rotifers can include DNA from bacteria, fungi, and even plants.
Researchers think this unusual capability of the organisms to copy and paste bits of foreign DNA may have helped this class of rotifers to exist for millions of years without resorting to sexual reproduction. While the researchers are not sure yet if the organisms actually make use of the genetic imports, they say the foreign genes seem to be clustered around the telomeres of the rotifers -- the 'end caps' of DNA segments that keep the DNA from unraveling. In this segment, Richard Harris talks with one of the researchers on the project about the findings.
Produced by Annette Heist, Senior Producer