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Number 231 in Ouzounis’s list of functional genes is deoxyribodipyrimidine photolyase, or DNA photolyase. This finding confirms, at the very least, the ancient origins of this enzyme. While the primary function for this (or any) gene may change over time, the simple function of DNA photolyase suggests that at least in this case the enzyme’s role in DNA repair has been conserved for a very long time. Not only is DNA photolyase truly ancient, but like other enzyme systems discussed in subsequent chapters, it remains widespread today, occurring in organisms ranging from bacteria to invertebrates and vertebrates.

So I have no illusions of expertise in earth science. 7 Below I provide a limited review of some of the current research. Considering the importance of oxygen to the evolution of life, its capacity to destroy life, and the role of life in oxygenating the planet, one cannot help thinking about the old chicken-and-egg puzzle. ”8 At some point, whether very early in life’s history or a billion years later, oxygen and life collided. At that point, oxygen would have presented a powerful directional selective pressure not only because of its toxicity, but also for its ability to drive the processes that crack apart the bonds of organic molecules, allowing the single-celled life forms inhabiting the earth to utilize every bit of pent-up energy through aerobic respiration.

Wildlife, particularly migratory species like birds, do it twice a year, while salmon may do it only once in a lifetime. How do they cope? 45 Additionally, suggests Costantini, those who do migrate may have evolved more robust antioxidant networks. But producing proteins or large molecules that are not directly related to life’s ultimate goal of reproduction could present a trade-off in terms of energy allocation—a fact not lost on ecologists like Neil Metcalfe and Carlos Alonso-Alvarez. 46 As we shall see throughout this book, many other defensive mechanisms, depending on their raison d’être, require the turning on and off of myriad genes—for that reason, as perhaps with all battles, defensive preparedness can be expensive.

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