Index to Common Creationist Claims about ERVs
Ive always said, if Darwin and Wallace decided to open a resort and spa in Cuba instead of going into science, if every fossil was still hidden-- The second we found ERVs, common descent would have smacked us in the head like a sack full of doorknobs.
You can play connect-the-dots with ERVs to draw phylogenetic tress, like they did here (okay, a little more complex than connect-the-dots hehe!)
So the logical claim from Creationists is that this apparent common descent isnt real. Retroviruses (and mobile elements) could have inserted themselves in chimpanzees and humans independently, and we cant prove otherwise.
Here are two papers that Ive seen Creationists use in support of this claim.
- Retroviral DNA Integration: ASLV, HIV, and MLV Show Distinct Target Site Preferences
- An Ancient Retrovirus-like Element Contains Hot Spots for SINE Insertion
Unfortunately if they had, you know, read the papers they referenced, they would know that the papers do not support that conclusion, and do not contradict the usage of mobile elements as phylogenetic markers.
The first paper simply states that some retroviruses like to insert in genes, some like to insert near promoters of genes, and some like to insert in the middle of no where. The specific insertion sites, what base pairs on on the left, which ones are on the right, is random. Thats exactly what they looked for in that papers methods.
Look at Figure 1: All those blue lollipops are places they found where HIV inserted itself.
Theres a lot more than one lollipop in that figure. The Creationist Claim is wrong.
The second paper gives them a quote to pirate, and while the statement is true, its not true in the way Creationists want it to be.
The presence of a retrotransposon at a single locus in multiple taxa remains an extremely powerful phylogenetic marker, but caution is required before concluding that the existence of a particular SINE at a particular locus in multiple individuals is indicative of common ancestry.These researchers found two independent SINE insertions in deer mice. They could tell the insertions apart. So their caution was for geneticists making phylogenetic trees-- look closely at your SINEs to make sure they are really related, and not independent events. Something they should be doing anyway, but its nice to know that you might find independent insertions while you are double checking it.
Their conclusion is that retroelements are just dandy for phylogenetic analysis. Again, this Creationist Claim is wrong.