Very cool. Biologists have starting mapping out the routes taken by genes as they move across species. For example how microbes traffic in various tricks of the trade, e.g. resistance to antibiotics. The resulting graphs are social in nature. A highly connected microbe can act as a hub thru which a useful gene is more likely to transit on it’s way to others just the same way that a idea or a infection is more likely to run thru those of us who are more sociable.
… a few species are like hubs, with spokes radiating out to the other species. This is the same pattern that turns up in many networks in life, from the genes that interact in a cell to the nodes of the Internet. These hubs can bring a vast number of nodes into close contact. It’s why you can play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. In the microbial world, this network allows genes to move quickly through the tree of life, whether those genes provide resistance to antibiotics or allow microbes to cope with some other change in the environment. The Kevin Bacons of the microbial world, at least in the current study, seem to be species that live in habitats where they may come in intimate contact with other species, such as in plant roots. They then act as gene banks from which other species can make withdrawals (…more)
This kind of stuff is too much fun. It lets you think in wild funny metaphors. For example. Consider a proffession (i.e. lawyering, doctoring, management, programming, what have you) and treat it as a species where the practitioners are individuals of the species. Some tricks of a trade are passed down to the practitioner from the coherent pool of knowledge that makes up the trade and this is like the legacy of one’s genes. While some practical knowledge is drawn in latterally thru the social networks that cross broundries. Some proffessions are more like mammals, with strong immune systems that regulate the exchange while others are like bacteria.