Evolutionary variations generating phenotypic adaptations and novel taxa resulted from complex cellular activities altering genome content and expression: (i) Symbiogenetic cell mergers producing the mitochondrion-bearing ancestor of eukaryotes and chloroplast-bearing ancestors of photosynthetic eukaryotes; (ii) interspecific hybridizations and genome doublings generating new species and adaptive radiations of higher plants and animals; and, (iii) interspecific horizontal DNA transfer encoding virtually all of the cellular functions between organisms and their viruses in all domains of life. Consequently, assuming that evolutionary processes occur in isolated genomes of individual species has become an unrealistic abstraction. Adaptive variations also involved natural genetic engineering of mobile DNA elements to rewire regulatory networks. In the most highly evolved organisms, biological complexity scales with “non-coding” DNA content more closely than with protein-coding capacity. Coincidentally, we have learned how so-called “non-coding” RNAs that are rich in repetitive mobile DNA sequences are key regulators of complex phenotypes. Both biotic and abiotic ecological challenges serve as triggers for episodes of elevated genome change. The intersections of cell activities, biosphere interactions, horizontal DNA transfers, and non-random Read-Write genome modifications by natural genetic engineering provide a rich molecular and biological foundation for understanding how ecological disruptions can stimulate productive, often abrupt, evolutionary transformations.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited