Happy that the Common Ancestor is Common

As we age, our sleep gets less well consolidated: we take more naps during the day and wake up more oftenduring the night. This happens to other mammals as their age. Now we know that it also happens in Drosophila:

“As humans age, so I’m told, they tend not to sleep as well. There are all sorts of reasons — aches and pains, worries about work and lifelong accumulations of sins that pretty much rule out the sweet sleep of innocence.
But what about fruit flies? Not as a cause of insomnia. What about the problems fruit flies have sleeping?
Yes, Drosophila melanogaster also suffer sleep disruption when they get older. And a report on the troubled sleep of drosophila is being published online this week in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
This is the kind of science that makes you wonder.
For instance, are the male flies getting up to go to the bathroom threetimes a night? Are the female flies complaining about hot flashes? Of course not. Fruit flies don’t have bathrooms.
Or you might wonder what troubles are keeping the flies up. They don’t have to worry about family values, illegal immigration or debt. They don’t have families or money.
And given the ubiquity of fruit and of scientific research, I’m guessing drosophila, bless their little genomes, must benefit from something close to full employment.”

But that is just the impetus for James Gorman to wonder why so many people deny evolution and why don’t other, like he does, enjoy the wonder of being related to every living organism on this planet:

“What I wonder is why people waste time worrying about whether we evolved from animals. But they do. A disconcerting number of North Americans doubt the fact of evolution. The U.S. seems almost evenly divided on the matter, says a recent report in Science.
Some of the worriers concentrate on apelike ancestors, showing a lack of vision.
There are stranger connections to agonize over, like drosophila and beyond. We share sleep problems with fruit flies. We have a huge amount of DNA in common with yeast.
Those are our distant cousins we consume in leavened bread, our fellow multi-celled organisms undergoing dreadful experiments in the drosophila lab. For instance, scientists have heated up the ambient temperature in fruit flies’ environment to see what happens. At 64 degrees Fahrenheit they live twice as long as at 84 degrees. Live hot, die young.
What does that mean for us?
We really do share a lot with drosophila. Fruit flies have sleep-wake cycles that become fragmented as they age, suffering a “loss of sleep consolidation, namely increased daytime sleep and increased night-time wakefulness in the elderly,” as Kyunghee Koh at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and three colleagues describe it.
Sound familiar?Some of the same genes related to circadian rhythms occur in humans and in flies. Mutations in some of these shared clock genes can cause sleep disorders in people.
We also share genes related to learning and alcohol sensitivity. But even these commonalities are not worth worrying about. The genes are just details. We have the same basic cell machinery — DNA, for example — with everything living.
The bacteria in my gut accounts for more genes than I have in my chromosomes. We not only have a lot in common with microbes, in a way that is only beginning to be understood, we are microbes.
This is fine with me. I’m delighted to be related to flies, yeast, frogs, chimps and blue-green algae.
I find the serenity of algae restful and the ambition of yeast admirable.
Frogs are great jumpers. Chimps have hands at the end of their feet, sort of.
And fruit flies, well, I never met a fruit fly that I was ashamed to share genes with, and I certainly can’t say that about human beings.”

Wonderfully put. I just had to go over what is appropriate and save all those words here and not let them dissappear into the Black Hole of newspaper archives. Thank you, Mr Gorman.

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