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Published 2000 | public
Book Section - Chapter

A Grand Unified Theory of Biomineralization


The geological record indicates that the major animal phyla began biomineralizing in a relatively short interval of time during the Cambrian evolutionary explosion, about 525 Myr ago. Because these phyla diverged well before this biomineralization event, it was triggered either by an unprecedented lateral genetic transfer, or was the result of parallel exaptation of an ancestral biomineral system in many separate lineages. As magnetite (Fe_3O_4) biomineralization is the most ancient matrix-mediated system, and is present in most animal groups, it may have served as this ancestral template for exaptation. Complete sequencing of the genome of a magnetotactic bacterium, and identifying the magnetite operon, might provide a 'road map' for unraveling the genetics of biomineralization in higher organisms, including humans.

Additional Information

© 2000 Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH. We thank the NASA Astrobiology Institute, the Electric Power Research Institute WO-4307-03, and an anonymous donor for support. This paper is dedicated to the memory of Heinz A. Lowenstam, who initiated the systematic study of the diversity of biomineral products.

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August 19, 2023
October 20, 2023