Thursday, August 2, 2012

Two for the Price of One

I read a blog by Robert Krulwich of NPR, titled “Are Butterflies Two Different Animals in One? The Death and Resurrection Theory”, and I was inspired to share my thoughts. Everyone (or at least most of us), is aware of the caterpillar to butterfly process, it has been the subject of countless children’s cartoons, books, and stories. Well not until now have I had any reason to think that the humble caterpillar and the majestic butterfly were two different creatures, so to speak.

According to Krulwich’s blog, biologist Bernd Heinrich is highlighting the idea that a caterpillar starts its life with two different sets to DNA information; that of the caterpillar, which tells it how to be a caterpillar, as well as that of a butterfly, which for the time being is silent.

As I have now come to understand it, once the caterpillar has eaten all it can eat, and makes its cocoon, it basically dies. Inside to cocoon the caterpillar shrinks, sheds it skin, and its organs dissolve turning its insides into mush. Most of the caterpillars’ cells die. What remains is the butterfly DNA information, so free-floating proteins and other nutrients, which start the process of building a butterfly from the ground up.

Just when I thought the craziness was over, I read one explanations for how this came about. In a nutshell, a really really long long time ago two creatures, one worm-like and the other winged ‘accidentally mated’ and parts of both of their DNA information now co-exist in their descendants, but never quite fully integrated.

You live, you learn, but most importantly you keep reading. I’m Just Sayin

P.S., here’s a link to the blog I read, knock yourselves out…

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