Science Daily reports:
Researchers from the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) today announced the publication of several studies from the Sorcerer II Global Ocean Sampling Expedition (GOS) in PLoS Biology detailing the discovery of millions of new genes, thousands of new protein families and specifically the characterization of thousands of new protein kinases from ocean microbes using whole environment shotgun sequencing and new computational tools.
This is extraordinary and exciting research, but what does any of this have to do with evolution news?
“In addition to increasing substantially the size and diversity of these families,” the article reports, “the GOS sequences increased the understanding of the evolution and function of these proteins” (emphasis mine). The article offers a repair protein by way of illustration:
One example is those that repair DNA damage due to UV light (photolyases). While sunlight has benefits to the microbes, like with humans, sunlight also has the potential to be harmful to cells exposed to it. The team discovered many new proteins that protect these organisms from UV ray damage and some that are involved in repairing UV damage. These proteins were found in all organisms in the dataset, even in viruses.
So where is the evidence of a gradually evolving UV-Ray-Damage-Repairing protein? How does this increase our understanding of the evolution of these proteins from fundamentally different proteins? It seems to suggest that everywhere we look in the biological world, the UV-ray-damage-repairing proteins are always already up and running at full speed. Perhaps we are learning that the evolutionary process in such proteins is like the singing frog from the Looney Tunes cartoon, the one who would never sing when there was an audience.