Biology as Poetry: Evolutionary Biology

Bacteriophage Ecology Group

Mosaic Evolution

The impact of successful horizontal gene transfer on organisms.

Mosaic evolution is the inter-mingling or merging of multiple lineages into a single organism. In terms of phenotype, it means that different traits associated with an organism evolved in lineages that are other than the primary lineage from which an organism descended. In terms of genotype, it means that different regions of hereditary material, usually DNA, are closely related to different organisms.

When one performs a sequence alignment of two different genomes, of organisms that are prone to substantial horizontal gene transfer (such as bacteriophages and various other viruses), then one finds regions of substantial sequence similarity that can be interspersed by regions of sequence dissimilarity. The default assumption, for organisms in which horizontal gene transfer is highly prevalent, is that the regions of sequence dissimilarity correspond to horizontal gene transfer events in one or both or the organisms being compared.

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