Scientists on the hunt for a genetic link between all invasive plants and animals have made a major discovery. All invasive species appear to share a common gene.
In a paper published today in Nature Genomics, geneticists from seven prominent universities in four countries document the presence of a gene present in all organisms that invade new regions of Earth.
The gene is present in over 300 invasive plants and animals tested to date.
The new gene, INV1, is located within the mitochondria and is passed along through the maternal line. The precise function of the gene is unknown, but it appears to confer a metabolic advantage to organisms that carry the allele, turning them into super species that roam the Earth without fear.
Herb Baker, a biologist not involved in the study, noted that “even though phenotypic traits already link many invasive species, this new genetic evidence is beyond anything we expected. In fact, it’s kind of hard to believe.”
The discovery opens up the possibility that new approaches to controlling invaders can be developed. “If we can find a way to interrupt the chemical expression of this gene, we may be able to stop all invaders with one treatment,” stated Amos B. Kracray, one of the study’s authors. “That would be so cool.”
Scientists at the LOCO Institute, one of the organizations involved in the study, expressed optimism that the gene could be spliced into food crops to boost yields and improve tolerance of environmental extremes. “What could possibly go wrong?” stated one of the lead LOCO scientists.
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