An anonymous reader writes: "A new paper reports on the sequencing and analysis of the genome of a single-celled species known as Tetrahymena thermophila. This ciliate (like the Paramecium people look at in school) has some 27,000 genes, or nearly as many as humans. And despite existing as a single cell, this spcies encodes fantastic complexity and unusual features. For example, it has a primitive immune system that prevents the invasion of foreign DNA. Also, it is able to cordon off its germ cell lineage much as humans do with sperm and eggs. But Tetrahymena does this by having two nuclei within each cell, with one of the nuclei being held in reserve for sex. Basically, this species uses its genome complexity to function like a single celled chameleon, changing its shape and its properties in response to the changing environment. For example, when a new nutrient shows up in its neighborhood this species can build a kit to suck the nutrient in, degrade it, and turn it into cellular biomass quickly. Thus whereas humans use their genomic complexity in part to create a stable environment for the body, this species simply uses a genomic swiss army kit to make do with whatever environment it encounters."
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