Fleas with More Genes Than Humans

A recent news item on the number of genes in a water flea prompted AiG researcher Dr. Georgia Purdom (her doctorate is in molecular genetics) to write a short blog post. I have reproduced her post below, as it is such an interesting item:

The water flea, genus Daphnia, is a small (1–5 mm) crustacean known to inhabit bodies of water all over the world. Its genome (DNA in the nucleus) was recently sequenced and found to contain a remarkable 31,000 genes. Humans are only estimated to have 20,000–25,000 genes. Why are so many genes needed for such a small and relatively simple (in comparison to humans) organism? Unlike humans, water fleas have to deal with their environment. I usually put it this way—they can’t come in from the rain (or snow, etc.) so they have to adapt or die. God designed the water flea with an amazing spectrum of genes and mechanisms to change its phenotype (characteristics) to allow it to adapt to a wide range of environments. Dieter Ebert, in an article about the research, stated the following:

Water fleas react to chemicals (kairomones) released by different predators by expressing highly specific characteristics, such as protective tail spines, helmets, and neck teeth. They are also able to adapt physiologically to wide ranges of pH, toxins, oxygen concentrations, food, and temperature regimes. Moreover, maternal effects allow them to prepare their offspring for environmental challenges, including infectious disease, and the offspring’s sex depends on the mother’s environmental conditions.[1]

Amazing—even the mother water fleas can “prepare” their offspring before they are born for what they will face in the environment.

When I talk to children’s assemblies and include the platypus as an example of remarkable design, I tell them about its interesting mix of features (e.g., bill like a duck, beaver-like tail, hair like a bear, web feet like an otter, claws like a rooster, and poison like a snake). I tell the kids that if the platypus evolved, it must have evolved from everything! All this is just to help them understand how the platypus is a “mosaic”—it has features of birds, reptiles, and mammals. I sometimes tell them that I think that every time an evolutionist looks at a platypus, I think that God “smiles,” as I think He made it just for them!

Well, I think God also smiles when evolutionists look at the water flea! Such a tiny creature, and it has more genes than a human! I love it!

You can access Georgia’s fascinating blog here.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,

Ken