Were introns immediately dismissed as useless junk?

In a recent paper, Morris and Mattick (2014) claim that:

“The discovery of introns in 1977 ¬†was perhaps the biggest surprise in the history of molecular biology, as no one expected that the genes of higher organisms would be mosaics of coding and non-coding sequences, all of which are transcribed. However, the prevailing concept […]


Genome reduction in bladderworts vs. leg loss in snakes.

In one sense, I am happy that there is enough interest in the concept of “junk DNA” (and by extension, my area of research in genome size evolution) that the subject gets regular media attention. A few months ago, it was all about the ENCODE project and its “finding” of “function” for 80% of […]


Michael Eisen’s take on ENCODE — there’s no junk?

Michael Eisen has also weighed in on the ENCODE media blitz, but it’s interesting that he criticizes the hype for a very different reason:

The issues all stem, ultimately, from the press releases issued by the ENCODE team, one of which begins:

The hundreds of researchers working on the ENCODE project have revealed that […]


From non-coding to coding genes.

I sometimes get asked if non-coding elements (usually “junk DNA” is what they say) can ever evolve into genes. I usually say that transposable elements, at least, can be coopted into functional roles, and that it wouldn’t be so odd if a pseudogene took on a novel function sometime through mutations. Kind of a […]


Non-coding DNA and night vision.

Ok, check this out!

Seemingly misplaced DNA acts as lenses

Reporting on Solovei et al (2009) We show that the nuclear architecture of rod photoreceptor cells differs fundamentally in nocturnal and diurnal mammals. The rods of diurnal retinas possess the conventional architecture found in nearly all eukaryotic cells, with most heterochromatin situated at the […]


Misc media.

Busy preparing for the start of the semester, so to tide you over here are some links of things to check out.

1) In our genes, old fossils take on new rolesby David Brown, Washington Post It turns out that about 8 percent of the human genome is made up of viruses that once […]


And the junk DNA train rolls on…

This appeared in my weekly automated journal search. I have ordered the paper as I can’t find an online copy, but the abstract pretty much covers what the argument will be. Same old pre-1980s adaptationist idea presented as radically novel. Mallik, M. and Lakhotia, S.C. 2008. Noncoding DNA is not “junk” but a necessity […]


A few more quotes about non-coding DNA.

Just for fun, here are some quotes I came across while reading a few sources for a paper I am writing.

Remember, a significant number of creationists, science writers, and molecular biologists want us to believe that non-coding DNA was totally ignored after the term “junk DNA” was published in 1972, that the […]


Quotes of interest -- science news stories.

We have been told in science news stories since the early 1990s that biologists long neglected the potential significance of noncoding DNA. (Sadly, this is in line with the claims made by creationists, who claim that “Darwinism” is to blame despite the obvious fact that Darwinian adaptationism would expect functions. Some biologists likewise play […]


Non-functional DNA: non-functional vs. inconsequential.

Each copy of the human genome consists of about 3,200,000,000 base pairs, and includes about 500,000 repeats of the LINE-1 transposable element (a LINE) and twice as many copies of Alu (a SINE), as compared to around 20,000 protein-coding genes. Whereas protein-coding regions represent about 1.5% of the genome, about half is made up […]