More useful junk

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In a paper published today in PLoS Genetics the research supporting the value of so-called junk DNA gained more ground. As is stated in the article biologists have known about junk DNA for many years but it was felt that it was mostly extraneous data in the genetic code.

If you have read the research behind SDNEAT, you know that scientists are starting to change their perceptions of junk DNA. Segmental duplications seem to be critical in the evolution of species, they allow for high levels of genetic variation and mutation with a smaller chance of disabling the original genome all together.

This new study suggests that DNA ‘retrotransposons” are important to human evolution. One specific set of retrotransposons are called Alu elements:

“Alu elements are a major source of new exons. Because Alu is a primate-specific retrotransposon, creation of new exons from Alu may contribute to unique traits of primates”

Perhaps as an extension to SDNEAT the algorithm to merge a segmental duplication into the genome being mutated could be extended to allow for transposition of the identified segment within the genome. These higher order mutations could be exceptionally valuable when dealing with extremely complex solution spaces and genomes.

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