An apple a day…

Posted: March 16, 2011 in genetics, just for fun

It all began normally enough. I was wearily poking at the discarded remnants of a neglected portabella bin, wondering to myself if it was relevant to check whether mushrooms had gotten moldy, when from across the room I spied a soccer mom pick up the most amazing specimen ever to enter a grocer’s produce aisle…

I immediately sprang into action: illuminated by harsh fluorescent lights I raced across the scuffed linoleum floor, leaping over a power cord (what the heck was that doing there?!) as I dived headlong toward the unsuspecting woman holding this wondrous apple just so – such that I could see its glory while she merely thought it was red. Here’s a hint: The lady next to her, had she bothered to look, would have called the apple green.

Despite the utter lack of interest she had previously displayed toward her selection as she sifted through the bin of golden deliciousness, this unfortunate lady for a moment seemed to find offense to my apple-snatching tactics. I, however, had clearly won the grab and flaunted my remarkable trophy in the air with a triumphant “Yeeessssss!” Obviously well versed in fight picking and not-picking, my victim exhaled heavily, shrugged, and turned to resume her half-hearted fruit sorting.

Now what, you might ask, could make a biologist behave in such a manner at the neighborhood market? For what would she risk potential eye rolling, hip-jutting, over-exaggerated throat clearing, and finger pointing? Obviously outnumbered and outwitted in this rather non-diverse sea of tired, bitter middle class women, I can only surmise that my epinephrine pathway took control and caused an action response not entirely conscious.

And thank goodness it did, because otherwise I might have hesitated a moment too long and forever regretted my cowardice. You see, this apple was a genetic Golden Ticket. A needle in the proverbial haystack; and almost lost innocuously forever in a mouthful of hay by an unappreciative horse. Not that I’m comparing this lady to a horse, mind you.

I understand my enchanted apple to be a rare genetic anomaly. Or, as the last guy put it, “It’s a genuine one-off and none of us have ever seen an apple like it before.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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I adore apples. And I hate doctors. Like the chicken and the egg, however, I’m not sure which of those came first in my life… So let’s discuss the biology of apples a bit! But oh! where to begin? So much fascination and so little space! First of all, apples have the largest plant genome sequenced to date…or at least the apple TREE does, and specifically the Golden Delicious, which was singled out from over 7500 varieties to have its DNA code immortalized first. From that sequencing project, we have learned other interesting tidbits, such as that the wild Eve of apples (common ancestor, Malus sieversii) was born in the mountains of modern-day Kazakhstan and acquired its ginormous genome through at least one major duplication event (a large genome is thought to render competitive advantages and other major evolutionary implications – for example, vertebrates are throught to have arisen from a genome duplication in some shared invertebrate ancestor).

More on this topic later – I’ll share with you my, and biologists of various other specialties’ , suspicions regarding the specific source of this special apple’s phenotype. Here’s a hint for those of you extra-credit point seekers: What has the body of a lion, the head of a goat, a snake for a tail, and breathes fire?

  1. marym says:

    Its chimera. People believed in Greek methology that she was vicious and powerful. She is also the offspring of Typhon and Echidna. She is also considered a hybrid and a “she-goat”. She has 3 different animal abilities but as one creature.

  2. Good! Now, what is the biological phenomenon to which that term has been applied??

  3. Sarah Glass says:

    it is applied to many different types of mixing of cells of two different species or organisms? It’s not a hybrid but it is the fusion of gametes from two different species that forms one zygote?

  4. I think you are close; but rather than two different species, two different “strains” within the species….and still we have the question of why the whole organism didn’t appear congruent….so now look at where/when/how different genes are turned on and off 🙂

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