The “hard disk” of genetic information in our cells, the DNA contains about 220 million “alphabets”(base pairs). These “alphabets” are arranged sequentially and make up the genetic code. This genetic code tells the cell how to live, which basically involves synthesis of proteins. So why am I telling you all this? Well I think a rather startling fact about our DNA requires looking into. You see 98% of these base pairs(the “alphabets”) are meaningless for cell i.e they are non-coding. The 215.6 million base pairs in our DNA are relics of the past, of stories untold, experiences never shared yet somehow recorded into this beautiful molecule and passed down over millions of years.

Some parts of the DNA are actually viruses(yikes!), which infected our ancestors aeons ago and somehow got stored. Other parts however are organisms like bacteria which entered into a contract which might have read something like this: I give up on the hard labors of sustaining myself. Instead being a food for you, I will help you store it and become a part of you. This way I can stay alive even being dead. Still some parts are completely unknown, possibly a rare molecular machine our cells used to synthesize long ago for some need but do not need it any more (digesting plants?). These 215 million base pairs contains a story of the bacteria which first found out a way to make food from sunlight or the tardigrade which survived all 5 mass extinctions to tell its story. These unused base pairs might as well as contain “instructions” for certain skillsets which are not required anymore (an enhanced sense of smell?).

Maybe some of the code our cells are using might pass into these “annals of life”. Maybe somewhere in distant future a scientist might look at this code and smile with the realisation of the history all the living beings which lived before and marvel at the ups and downs the life on earth had to go through to reveal its story to him. Maybe these future humans would be able to tap into these unused DNA and acquire certain abilities (That’s some sci-fi stuff for sure!).

Anyway you look at it, the dusty old book with a few readable pages that DNA is, hints at something far deep. The inter-connectedness of life from the very first microbe in the ocean to us humans. It hints at the game of life, where one often has to lose the right to live just to be able to get its name in the big book. Maybe the same portion of DNA might prove useful years ahead. In a way the species that got extinct lived in us, helping nature realise a far larger dream, one it wasn’t aware that it was helping it accomplish: to keep the wheel of life rotating.

 

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