In fact, horizontal gene transfer has happened between all kinds of living things throughout the history of life on the planet – not just between species, but also between different kingdoms of life. Bacterial genes end up in plants; fungal genes wind up in animals; snake and frog genes find their way into cows and bats. It seems that the genome of just about every modern species is something of a mosaic constructed with genes borrowed from many different forms of life.It seems that genes frequently "jump" from one organism to another for the purpose of perpetuating the genes themselves -- regardless of the opinion of the whole genome. The genomes seem more permeable and dynamic than I had thought, as a layperson to the biological sciences.
It reminded me of an earlier article on microbiome, that explained:
The traditional view is that a human body is a collection of 10 trillion cells which are themselves the products of 23,000 genes... In the nooks and crannies of every human being, and especially in his or her guts, dwells the microbiome: 100 trillion bacteria of several hundred species bearing 3m non-human genes... Humans are not single organisms, but superorganisms made up of lots of smaller organisms working together.These two evidences shook my already-wobbly sense of the individual self. If the genes that make Zilong -- what I received from mom and dad -- is less than 1% of the genes in my body, then, genetically speaking, I am the absolute minority -- the 1% -- in my own body.
"I" -- the human genome -- am dependent upon the bacteria -- the 3 million non-human genes -- in my body for survival. Is "my mind" really mine, when it is so subject to the influence of the trillions of the bacteria that co-inhabit this body with "me"? Is my consciousness a result of the human genome, or of the microbes that make human life possible?
Even for those 23,000 genes that indeed make me, the genes are just out for themselves, without much thought for the "greater good" of the possessive "owner" of this genome. Not to mention that over 98% of my genome is noncoding DNA, formerly known as "junk genes." I seem to be the 1% of the 1% in temple of my own body, when science is concerned.
Given all that -- who am I?
Now, I can hear the saints throughout the ages saying, I told you so :)