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Old Jan 9 2009, 08:21 PM   #1
Danel
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Default On the Genesis of Species

Ok so I'm going to wax scientific again. I can't resist it.

One things that always interested me about Pern, is that it technically has an ecosystem that is a merger of three totally separate genetic strains.

The Native strains, Wherry's, Firelizzards, Tunnel snakes, native fish, etc... All would seem to come from a natively evolved DNA strain to PERN. My feeling here with the unique nature of the typically six-ed limbed natives (instead of four or eight), that their DNA strands were of a triple helix nature using 6 proteins (PNA), instead of a double helix nature using 4 four proteins (DNA).

Of Pern Native varieties including viri and bacterium, similar like Terran ones, they all share a commonality in their PNA strains of around 3%.

The Terran imports have their standard DNA construct, however the environment of Pern, plus the genetic adaptations made by original colonists, has caused some species to no longer be genetically compatible with their Terran original strains. Mostly this incompatibility is with the plants.

The third is also an import, but of an unknown nature. The Thread Borne strain, which is also a DNA based life-form, seems to be of it's own making. Compared to Terran DNA strains there are no commonalities that would indicate a relation.

The Thread strain encompasses the aforementioned Thread, the Grubs, and the Igen Sand Worms. It's possible that this space borne species, is a form a highly organized Panspermia, that while it may have developed on it's own, is more likely the results of an intelligent culture's attempt to seed the galaxy with their own DNA, when for some reason they knew their home world was doomed and they had not enough space faring abilities to escape.

Interesting enough, while there has been no genetic sharing between thread strains and the other two strains. It seems there is good evidence that Pern PNA and Terran DNA sharing is occurring in the form of new bacteria and viri. Of note is the flu like virus that at one time infected both humans and dragons.

This has some fascinating implications, in that the Pern PNA and Terran DNA may have a common panspermial ancestor that seeded both planets with it's first bacterial RNA strands. On Terra, this developed into the common DNA chain to all Terran species, an on Pern, it developed into the common PNA chain to all it's species. That the two can intermingle into new viri, certainly hints that there should be one small common piece of RNA between Perns PNA and Terrans DNA.
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Old Jan 11 2009, 08:17 PM   #2
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Default Re: On the Genisis of Species

In dragonsdawn, the only real note of differences between native lifeforms, and imported terran varieties was the difficulties of terran herbivores eating plant life with a higher concentration of boron. the mutation of bacteria and viruses to cross between terran and pernese plants and animals is common. bird flu anyone?
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Old Jan 12 2009, 12:14 AM   #3
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Default Re: On the Genisis of Species

In DD, it was stated that the DNA was very close. As it's a parallel world, the oxy-mix is also a Earth match. Also, I beleive that the botanist, Ted Tubberman, altered a Pern insect that eat the thread (after it hit the soil), and whose byproducts fertilized the plants and passed on a symbionic negitive to thread protecting it.
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Old Jan 12 2009, 09:15 PM   #4
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Default Re: On the Genisis of Species

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In DD, it was stated that the DNA was very close. As it's a parallel world, the oxy-mix is also a Earth match. Also, I beleive that the botanist, Ted Tubberman, altered a Pern insect that eat the thread (after it hit the soil), and whose byproducts fertilized the plants and passed on a symbionic negitive to thread protecting it.
I must of missed that comment totaly, but I only read that book once.

DNA being very close on two entirely seperate planets, would definately support any kind of Panspermia seeding of both the earth/terran systems.

I find in intresting that Anne seemed to be impling a Panspermia concept, even if very subtly, before it became more mainstream of a notion.
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Old Jan 13 2009, 08:08 AM   #5
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Default Re: On the Genisis of Species

How can Pernese and Terran DNA be very close when Pernese DNA is triple-stranded? That already makes them incredibly different.
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Old Jan 13 2009, 09:36 AM   #6
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How can Pernese and Terran DNA be very close when Pernese DNA is triple-stranded? That already makes them incredibly different.
Don't go there, Cheryl! Dragons and humans shouldn't be able to digest the same herdbeasts, and the problems only spiral upwards from there.

This is an area where very few authors put in enough effort to do it right - Lois Bujold is one of the few I can think of off-hand who truly highlights the difficulties of terraforming a world with an active preexisting ecosystem.
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Old Jan 13 2009, 08:18 PM   #7
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Hmmmm...I don't remember anywhere in the books of a triple-stranded DNA helix. As Danal correctly stated, the common ancestor of the major air, land and sea life form was six limbed. This dosen't mean a triple is nessacary, just a slight difference in the molecular chain. I remember reading in a science mag that there is only 2 or 4 pair difference between humans and pigs. That's enough for ham and swiss sandwiches.
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Old Jan 13 2009, 08:45 PM   #8
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The DNA is mentioned primarily in Dragonsdawn. Possibly in AtWoP, possibly in CoP.
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Old Jan 13 2009, 08:52 PM   #9
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How can Pernese and Terran DNA be very close when Pernese DNA is triple-stranded? That already makes them incredibly different.
I was meaning that I missed that in DD it was said that DNA was close.

And that Close DNA sort of implies a Pansermia consept.

Sorry for the misunderstanging there.
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Old Jan 14 2009, 12:13 AM   #10
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Default Re: On the Genesis of Species

My immediate thought is that the RNA strands MIGHT be fairly similar. But, Terran DNA, having links at each amino acid location, is incredibly stable. Pernese TNA however, having to link sideways in two directions is a much looser assembly and might be more prone to mutation
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Old Jan 14 2009, 01:36 AM   #11
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Default Re: On the Genesis of Species

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Hmmmm...I don't remember anywhere in the books of a triple-stranded DNA helix. As Danal correctly stated, the common ancestor of the major air, land and sea life form was six limbed. This dosen't mean a triple is nessacary, just a slight difference in the molecular chain. I remember reading in a science mag that there is only 2 or 4 pair difference between humans and pigs. That's enough for ham and swiss sandwiches.
It's in Dragonblood. There was a discussion a while back.
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Old Jan 14 2009, 05:02 AM   #12
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I remember reading in a science mag that there is only 2 or 4 pair difference between humans and pigs.
Which is why transplant surgeons experiment on them. Anatomically they're VERY similar and even the body weight is in the same range making drug dosage roughly equal.

I remember reading that we're only about 2% different to the great apes. But, since around 90% of the genetic coding is redundant junk, most of the differences are probably in the junk. So we are probably more like 15 to 20% different where it actually counts.
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Old Jan 14 2009, 03:23 PM   #13
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Default Re: On the Genesis of Species

I’ve been busy with my research the college so I haven’t had much time until today, to chime in my thoughts on this subject. And being a biology major, I love that you brought this subject up Danel!

Also with regards to P’ter… are you a scientists as well? You seem to know a lot more than the average person about genetics?

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This has some fascinating implications, in that the Pern PNA and Terran DNA may have a common panspermial ancestor that seeded both planets with it's first bacterial RNA strands. On Terra, this developed into the common DNA chain to all Terran species, an on Pern, it developed into the common PNA chain to all it's species. That the two can intermingle into new viri, certainly hints that there should be one small common piece of RNA between Perns PNA and Terrans DNA.
Alright time for my opinion. In regards to your first post Danel, I think it’s a very good possiblility that Anne may have subtly been trying to support the panspermia theory with these books. However I really think that everything in the books, from the plaques to terran plants/animals adapting to Pern, has to do with simply genetics.
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Old Jan 14 2009, 03:28 PM   #14
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Default Re: On the Genesis of Species

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How can Pernese and Terran DNA be very close when Pernese DNA is triple-stranded? That already makes them incredibly different.
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My immediate thought is that the RNA strands MIGHT be fairly similar. But, Terran DNA, having links at each amino acid location, is incredibly stable. Pernese TNA however, having to link sideways in two directions is a much looser assembly and might be more prone to mutation
To answer Cheryl’s question and to make further comments on what P’ter has already said… I think that both terran and Pern genetic codes are fundemently the same. Each requires amino acids to create their individual structures, with the major different being 1) the number the strands and 2) how the amino acids are arranged. From what I’ve learned in my biology classes, this doesn’t mean that they are necessarily very different. Structurally they are different, but since I do not recall any new amino acids being mentioned (to my knowledge) I think that through time and mutation it’s possible for both strains to combine and form something completely different.

As far as the flu virus affecting both people and dragons, the above explanation tells why this can happen. It is also important to note that the flu virus back on good old terra, is extremely prone to mutations and is why it is one of the deadliest viruses on earth. A lot of people don’t understand this, because we commonly get the flu and it’s gone within a few days with symptoms ranging from intolerable to mild discomfort.

The reason flu is so deadly is because of its ability to mutate into a strain we as a human race have never encountered before. This could be the reason why flu was able to affect both humans and dragons. If my memory stands correctly it never affected humans and dragons at the exact same time, so we could be dealing with 2 different strains of flu. One strain mutated to humans, the other which joined with a Pern bug and mutated to affect dragons.

While thinking about the panspermia theory is cool. I really think Anne was just going for the basics in science when creating Pern. Going too deeply into genetics and science might have discouraged people from reading her books. However, I must give Anne her due credit because what she has written is both correct and makes her books that more amazing!!
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Old Jan 15 2009, 06:45 PM   #15
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I agree with you, unicorntig, on Anne having just the right amount of info supplied. I didn't take any bi-ah-i-gee in school, can't even remember if there was such a class back then. I just pick up what I can from mags and TV to get the basics (I'm a techie actually). But it is fun to explore the concepts in Perns making.
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Old Jan 16 2009, 02:15 AM   #16
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When I did the database for this (I need to find a way of changing the format from Access to Works somehow) I was amazed just how much science there was, and then there are the little things, the equipment and the actions.
I keep coming across references to actions that I can link to in everyday life, although the glove box I used was a lot less complicated than the one in ATWOP!
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Old Jan 16 2009, 04:43 AM   #17
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P’ter… are you a scientists as well? You seem to know a lot more than the average person about genetics?
I'm mostly an Architectural Technician, so I'm a scientist/artist hybrid. However, I have also spent two and a half years as a student nurse and (a while later) a couple of years as a medical artist.
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Old Jan 16 2009, 09:30 PM   #18
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I'm mostly an Architectural Technician, so I'm a scientist/artist hybrid. However, I have also spent two and a half years as a student nurse and (a while later) a couple of years as a medical artist.
Thats really cool P'ter!!
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Old Jan 17 2009, 12:44 AM   #19
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When I did the database for this (I need to find a way of changing the format from Access to Works somehow) I was amazed just how much science there was, and then there are the little things, the equipment and the actions.
I keep coming across references to actions that I can link to in everyday life, although the glove box I used was a lot less complicated than the one in ATWOP!
You might want to consider Open Office 3.0, It's a free office like application that includes a full database component. It should be able to import your access tables directly, or indiractely with an OBDC Datasource.

I've been using for a few years and really appreciate that it's almost as good as MS Office, and doesn't cost a dime.
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Old Jan 17 2009, 01:31 AM   #20
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You might want to consider Open Office 3.0, It's a free office like application that includes a full database component. It should be able to import your access tables directly, or indiractely with an OBDC Datasource.

I've been using for a few years and really appreciate that it's almost as good as MS Office, and doesn't cost a dime.
Could I just download the database bit? (I use Word and Excel too much for work at home etc to want to change them)
I used Open Office when I was still at school and I liked it although there were compatibility issues. Mind you, this was more than five years ago now.
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Old Jan 17 2009, 03:39 PM   #21
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I think it comes as a package deal now with version 3. It sould be able to live on the same machine as MS Office. I have both on one machine at work and no issues with it.

I think there are still a few small issues with opening word documents in Open Office, but havent seen any issues myself, except with old word 5.0 documents.
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Old Jan 18 2009, 04:32 AM   #22
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It was the other way round with the version I used. Word wouldn't open Open Office files!
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Old Feb 8 2009, 08:37 AM   #23
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I use OO and the only problem I've ever had is making sure I save anything I write or create in the Microsoft standard format and not the OO default (ie Writer will try to save as a *.odt and not as a *.doc).

As long as I do that, I've never had a problem opening and saving on different machines using OO or Microsoft software.

Sorry that this was a bit off-topic LOL
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Old Mar 29 2009, 08:09 AM   #24
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If my memory stands correctly it never affected humans and dragons at the exact same time, so we could be dealing with 2 different strains of flu. One strain mutated to humans, the other which joined with a Pern bug and mutated to affect dragons.
I think there was about 12 turns difference between the two, with the human infection occuring first.

I was going to say there seems to be a bit of a flaw in the theory that both are strains of the same thing because there was absolutely no sign of any infection in between the two, but if I remember right the dragon flu in Dragonsblood is believed to have been caused originally by the fire-lizards so it's possible it was brought across from the Southern continent like the flu epidemic in Mortea was. (When sailors landed and brought back one of Tubberman's felines, possibly a cheetah.)

Come to think of it that could be an interesting issue for future 9th Pass books - it's implied that various strains of flu are endemic in Southern's animal populations but it hasn't been seen in the north since the 6th Pass (about 700 turns in the past if I've counted right) so the chances of any of the new settlers to Southern being immune are pretty slim.
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Old Apr 23 2009, 11:07 AM   #25
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Default Re: On the Genesis of Species

Pern DNA being a triple-helix was mentioned far before Dragonsblood, since I remember it and I haven't read Dragonsblood. It's probably in the Dragonlover's Guide to Pern, and probably in Dragonsdawn as well, or the Chronicles of Pern.

This, to me, has always hinted that Pernese genetic code is far more different than Terran genetic code than we think, since the base pairs must by chemically different enough to be able to bond to *two* other bases rather than just one. Suggests a different, eh, physical form to me. (Sorry, all my biology and chemestry is from high school and my own reading on the subjects.) In effect I agree with Kath and Cheryl here.

That's not to say there's not some funky form of RNA that might be panspermia-ish, that was the predecessor of both Earth and Pern DNAs. Just that Pern DNA is definately alien, even if it has enough paralells to be classified in the same category as Earth.

Six limbs vs. four limbs isn't really anything more than a limb-repetition command in the genes. We have six limbed things on earth...they're called insects. (Not being snarky; spiders, for example, are not considered insects because they have eight legs, not six.)

BTW--old school biology says that the DNA material between genes is "junk", but if you read the newer science articles these days, scientists are finding out that it's not actually junk. It's often a bunch of switches and triggers that tell the actual genes when to turn on and express themselves and when not to. (IE, you don't want your cells multiplying as they did when you were a fetus in your mother's womb...these "junk" genes tell the "real" genes when to switch on and do stuff.)

I sort of think of it as a very old, very jury-rigged building. You have all sorts of electrical wires, plumbing pipes, network cables, etc. all running around willy nilly. It works, however! But if you start cutting out random bits that *you* think is junk, it's likely to break something, cause the lights to go out or the sewer to back up, because other stuff depended on it in an awkward patchwork way. Genetic engineering is like the equivilant of building a brand new building where all those cables and pipes are in their places and there's much less redundancy. If something fails, there's not always something else to back it up (IE, grandpa's old tools were thrown out during the cleanup because they were "outdated" and aren't there to use in an emergency when the "new" tools fail). So natural genetic code is messy, but it works and provides some failsafes for unusual circumstances.
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Old May 4 2009, 06:18 AM   #26
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I don't think Anne is subtle in her agreement with the panspermia theory. Arrhenius (as on the plaque in Benden Weyr) was a notable pro-panspermia scientist (who said it was all driven by radiation pressure) and I think there is a mention of Wickramasinghe in Dragonsdawn who is another, more recent, panspermia scientist.

And I don't think that there is any evidence whatsoever that Thread was constructed by another species. There were mutterings by the Colonists that it could have been a Nathi device left over from the Wars, but agreed that Rukbat was too far away from their playing fields.

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Old May 7 2009, 09:57 PM   #27
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Thread (as reported in DD) is a hydro-carbon based life form living in the systems Ort cloud. The theory of it's possiblity is from two scientist on (future) Earth Hoyle and Wickramansingh.
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Old May 8 2009, 01:46 AM   #28
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Thread (as reported in DD) is a hydro-carbon based life form living in the systems Ort cloud. The theory of it's possiblity is from two scientist on (future) Earth Hoyle and Wickramansingh.
Hoyle and Wickramansinghe are, I can assure you, definitely not future Earth scientists! Chandra Wickramasinghe was born in Sri Lanka in 1939 and Hoyle in this context is Sir Fred Hoyle born 1915 and died in 2001.

I'm afraid that I don't have time at the moment to provide the exact quotes when the colonists are discussing Thread in any detail as I'm just about to leave for work, but basically Hoyle and Wickramasinghe were both proponents of panspermia and, I suspect, what Anne is referring to with her Hoyle-Wickramansinghe Theory comment is explained here.

I'm happy to provide more in-book quotes later on!
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Old May 8 2009, 05:16 AM   #29
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Wickramansinghe was, when I was looking into this for this project (which I really need to do more work on!) at Cardiff University I think.
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Old May 8 2009, 12:08 PM   #30
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Sir Fred Hoyle was even a SF author in is own right though if I remember correctly from my research of years ago for the Pern Encyclopedia Chandra Wickramansinghe's name was spelled wrong by Anne.

OT: Jan Oort, the Dutch astronomer after wgich the Oort Cloud is named, is a real person, too
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Old May 9 2009, 06:16 PM   #31
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Default Re: On the Genesis of Species

Fred wrote (among 14 others) a book called 'The Black Cloud'!

He also wrote a serial for The Young Elizabethan called 'The Far Side of the Moon' which, for some reason, doesn't seem to be included in the lists.
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Old May 11 2009, 07:56 AM   #32
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Default Re: On the Genesis of Species

Opps! Should have read up on the possibility of that.
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