Is Carl Woese losing a Kingdom?

James O. McInerney PhD j.mcinerney at nhm.ac.uk
Mon Sep 23 04:10:18 EST 1996

jos van den broek wrote:
> The complete genome of Methanococcus jannaschii reported in Science of 23 August
> is another great achievement of Craig Venter c.s. According to Carl Woese it
> gives an extra proof of the fact that Archaea are closer related to Eukaryotes
> than to Bacteria. But not according to e.g. Margulis and Gupta, who now even
> stronger believe that Eukaryotes originated by a merger of archaebacteria and
> eubacteria. To my humble opinion they are right and Woese - although he's a
> great scientist - is wrong, and about to lose a paradigm... and a Kingdom. 

I was HUGELY interested in this area of research until all of these
theories of symbiosis/merging of genomes and so forth.  Now there are
only a few more researchers in this area than there are theories.  What
is happening is that scientists are taking their favorite gene and
constructing a phylogeny and hey presto! this is my theory for life, the
universe and everything.  The picture is not clear, and at the time when
the eukaryotes emerged, a number of 'unusual' events probably occurred.

Arlin Stoltzofus (spelling?) proposed on this newsgroup a while back
that Archaebacteria should remain the proper name for Woese's favorite
group, but the pronounciation should be OurKeyBacteria.  This amusing
piece of facetiousness is an illustration that some theories are more to
do with preference than hard fact.  Woese obviously ignores some
'inconvienences', whereas Lynn Margulis (who studies protictista) has
her reasons for impressing upon us the 'importance' of the protoctista
in evolution.  Recently I've heard Mitchell Sogin airing his theory of
eukaryote evolution (again, another flavor of endosymbiosis).  James
Lake, of course, has for years been telling us about the Eocyte tree,
which splits up the OurKeyBacteria into three groups.

So, its not just since the sequencing of the Methanococcus jannaschii
genome that Carl Woese has been under fire.

If you want a more detailed (much more detailed) discussion of this
topic, then I suggest that you check out the Bionet archives
(http://net.bio.net/) in the 9404 (April, 1994) archive.  There was a
lively debate on the three domains at that time.


Dr. James O. McInerney Ph.D.        Phone/Voicemail: +44 171 938 9247
Senior Scientific Officer,          email:j.mcinerney at nhm.ac.uk
The Natural History Museum,         
Cromwell Road,
London SW7 5BD
Whenever I think of the past, it brings back so many memories...

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