Excerpt: “This new molecule sprang from nowhere at a time when our species was undergoing dramatic changes: living longer, walking upright, learning how to use tools and how to communicate. We’re now hopeful that we will find more new genes that help show what makes us human.”
Excerpt: “…researchers claim this gene came out of junk DNA, and fully functional too.”
My comment: The finely tuned micro-RNA / messenger RNA balance that controls intracellular signaling and intermolecular changes in DNA suggests that de novo expression of miR-941 is nutrient chemical-dependent (e.g., glucose-dependent) and controlled by the metabolism of glucose and other nutrient chemicals to species-specific pheromones.
In my model, it is the epigenetic effects of nutrient chemicals and pheromones that enable adaptive evolution via ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction exemplified in the honeybee model organism. (What the queen eats determines her pheromone production and everything else about interactions in the colony — including the neuroanatomy of the worker bee brain.) That level of cause and effect clarity increases with the results reported in this article, but the clarity is decreased by comments indicating that “This new molecule sprang from nowhere…”
Does anyone think that what’s reported here exemplifies an effect of a random mutation on ‘junk DNA’? I think it clarifies the fact that “Olfaction and odor receptors provide a clear evolutionary trail that can be followed from unicellular organisms to insects to humans.” –as detailed in Kohl (2012).
Linked Excerpts: “It seems like miR-941 came around after humans evolved from apes and at just the right moment to give humans a real edge over other mammals…”; “It remains to be seen precisely what effects this gene has in terms of growth in size of the brain, and neuronal organization relevant to the emergence of higher human cognition among our ancestor species several million years ago.”; “The team worked with scientists in China and Germany.”