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July 15, 2017 1:00am
THE WEIRD INSECTS THAT APPEARED last year at the Burning Man Arts Festival near Gerlach, Nevada, heretofore scientifically unknown, have recently yielded insight into the Transposon, a segment of DNA that can replicate itself and move around to different positions within the genome. These Transposons can cause mutations, change the amount of DNA in the cell and dramatically influence the structure and function of the genomes where they reside. Since these "bugs" (not all Hemipterans) frequently feed on humans, it is conceivable that bugs and humans may have exchanged DNA through the mechanism just uncovered. Detecting recent transfers to humans would require examining people that have been exposed to the bugs for thousands of years, such as Native American populations. Anyone who has been to the area is automatically a perfect subject for observation and experimentation. Yes, data on the insect and the snail provide strong, if still puzzling evidence, for the previously hypothesized role of host-parasite interactions in facilitating horizontal transfer of genetic material. Additionally, the large amount of DNA generated by the horizontally transferred Transposons, in all their glory, supports the idea that the exchange of genetic material between hosts and parasites influences their genomic evolution.

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