On BioScience and Life and Such

Posts Tagged ‘hopeful monster’

On ScienceBlogs 27/-1-08: Quick-Change Evolution

In Uncategorized on January 27, 2008 at 9:46 pm

I have so much to learn, and I’m looking so much forward to learning it. This time around it’s in evolution theory, and I’m going to make some bold statements while learning.

Some recent posts here on SciPhu has been on Hsp90 and rapid morphologic evolution. On ScienceBlogs the topic of the day is Quick-Change Evolution. The background is a blogpost by Olivia Judson stating the return of the hopeful monster. The hopeful monster theory says that extensive morphologic changes in one individual offspring (a monster – an individual organism looking radically different from the rest of its species), sometimes creates beneficial features enabling the monster to create further offspring with similar features. In this way one can achieve rapid evolution (as short as one generation) into the beginning of a new species. The theory is a controversial one and is also called punctuated equilibrium. I however, am apparently at odds with most science bloggers and evolutionary biologists, since the hopeful monster theory sounds plausible to me. How is this linked to Hsp90 you may wonder. Well…

Knocking down Hsp90 creates rapid morphological changes from one generation to the next (for details see references in my previous posts Evolution too fast for our genes to follow, On Hsp90 and morphological evolution and The rate of evolution/mutation/adaptation and future posts to come). Hsp90 does so by masking mutations under normal conditions and then revealing them under stressful conditions. Just to repeat myself, – this concept suddenly made evolution comprehensible to me, and I do not understand why other scientists haven’t embraced the masking concept as a revolutionary concept, expanding darwinian evolution theory.

Now it’s dawning on me why…….Such masking of mutations to produce a pool of potentially crucial mutations gives support to the hopeful monster theory.

One of the main criticisms of this theory, as far as I can understand, is the improbability of a single mutation to give rise to radical morphological changes, and further that this change, if it happens, is most likely deleterious, and if it against all odds is beneficial, its even more improbable that this individual is able to produce offspring with the same trait(s). But…..

Extensive morphological change has been shown to happen due to single mutations, and…

With Hsp90 as a player in the game, it need not be a single mutation, but rather a pool of mutations already present and waiting to be exposed under stress. That increases the chances of achieving multiple changes in multiple individuals. Consequently the chance(s) of producing one or more beneficial trait(s) is(are) increased.

In addition, if such stress appears and mutations are revealed, then many individual offspring will have extensive changes, and the chances for two such individuals to mate increase dramatically.

Thus, I cannot see why a combination of the hopeful monster theory and the actions of Hsp90 (and possibly other mutation masking proteins) under stressful conditions, is a perfectly credible extension to darwinian evolution. An extension that can explain some of the rapid changes that has occured during evolution of species.