How much of its genome does a bacterium really need? About twelve-percent. ScienceDaily reports:
“A team at the Stanford University School of Medicine has cataloged, down to the letter, exactly what parts of the genetic code are essential for survival in one bacterial species, Caulobacter crescentus.
They found that 12 percent of the bacteria’s genetic material is essential for survival under laboratory conditions. The essential elements included not only protein-coding genes, but also regulatory DNA and, intriguingly, other small DNA segments of unknown function. The other 88 percent of the genome could be disrupted without harming the bacteria’s ability to grow and reproduce.”
The take-away: even the simplest life is more complex than necessary. Nature is populated by beings that are intricate, baroque, gratuitous wholes, not the meager epiphenomena of chemical reactions. Life is rich and profligate.