NPR logo

Organism Captures and Assimilates Foreign DNA

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/90974599/90974611" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Organism Captures and Assimilates Foreign DNA

Research News

Organism Captures and Assimilates Foreign DNA

Organism Captures and Assimilates Foreign DNA

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/90974599/90974611" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Small freshwater invertebrates known as rotifers have the uncanny ability to capture bits of DNA from other organisms and assimilate that genetic code. Researchers writing this week in the journal Science report that the genome of one class of 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.

Matthew Meselson, a professor of natural sciences at Harvard University, explains the latest findings.