Where did we come from? What set of biological coincidences and accidents led us to this point; the point at which I am able to sit at a computer and write this for you?
Around 600 million years ago the taxonomy of life underwent a major schism. It was at this time that the boundaries between species became more clearly defined, with ‘animals’, as we know them today, beginning to set themselves apart from the other branches of the biological tree. But, which was the true proto ‘animal’ species? Which creature has earned the right to call itself our ancestor? And where should we send our Christmas cards to?
For years, biologists have debated two possibilities – the sponge or the comb jelly – and have reached only academic stalemate. Now, that might be about to change, thanks to new developments in the science of understanding and demonstration.
That’s right. Not content with helping businesses develop their strategies and leverage the power of pure insight, Big Data is now helping us to get to the bottom of the mysteries of life.
Complex Data/Complex Organisms
It might sound like a fairly inconsequential squabble – a “we know we came from somewhere, so let’s leave it at that” kind of deal – but there is in fact more at stake here than pride. The fact is, scientists still don’t fully understand the evolution of our complex biological systems. For example, our digestive system, nervous system and other sophisticated feats of organic engineering.
Experts hope that, by getting closer to an understanding of ‘Step 1’ in the evolutionary process, they can begin to decode the nature of these systems as they exist today, unwrapping their complexity and developing our knowledge of them. This will have a huge impact on medical practice and procedure and will help medical professionals to administer the right treatment when it is needed.
To do achieve this, we need data; something that the sponge camp has in abundance. A study published in the scientific journal Current Biology showcased just how much of the data points to sponges as being the ancestors of the animal kingdom. While sponges do not have a brain in the human sense, nor do they have a nervous system or digestive tract, the genetic data gathered from samples shows that the building blocks are in place for sponges to develop these important additions to their anatomy. This could be evidence that it…
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