Who are well-known real-life "mutants"?

You. Me. The bacterium that metabolizes man-made precursors to the manufacture of Nylon. All life.

Every single human who has ever lived carries roughly 100 genetic mutations resulting just from replication errors in the cells that went into the sperm and egg. Our genome is huge. Contrary to popular misconception, most mutations just make no difference at all, amounting to non-functional variations to the proteins or enzymes the mutated genes code for.

Genetic mutations can kill or cripple babies, and so most people think of mutations as a terrible thing that is always harmful—but that is completely wrong. The sort of mutations people have in mind are mostly gross changes to chromosomes (which can cause babies to abort or die shortly after birth) or certain rare mutations that can cause disease. Most people are utterly ignorant of the fact that those disease-causing mutations are exceptions to the rule, and even some of those diseases are actually there for a reason.

For example, sickle-cell anemia arises when a person gets the mutated “sickle cell trait” from both parents. But when they get it from only one parent, it confers a degree of immunity to malaria, one of the greatest killers on the planet. Most mutations make little material difference, but they provide the variations within a population upon which natural survival pressure can select.

Such variation is vital to life, as without it, life could not change and adapt over time. Mutation alone, of course, has limitations, so early on, life evolved mechanisms to increase variation while minimizing risk. The biggest of these is sexual reproduction.

Which sex, every organism has two copies of its genes, one from each parent. That means each organism has twice are many mutations—but also protection from more mutations that might otherwise be harmful. Many of the genetic diseases seen in humans arise from mutations to the Y-chromosome—the one that creates males and is missing much of the functional genes on the X-chromosome.

The bacterium I mentioned above illustrates one way mutations enable evolution. This common soil bacterium is a species found in ditches and small ponds all over the world. But in one of those ponds, a single bacterium experiences a mutation that made an extra copy of the gene coding for an enzyme important to the bacterium’s ability to consume nutrients. The extra copy of this gene wasn’t needed, but didn’t do any real harm. This is a well known type of mutation that scientists see all the time, and that natural selection will, sooner or later, generally filter out of the genome.

Except before that had time to happen, one of the descendants of this bacterium experiences a second common type of mutation, a frame-shift error that altered one of the duplicated genes so it now made an enzyme that doesn’t fit any molecule in nature. This second mutation was also useless, but harmless, and would eventually be lost, except…

This particular bacterium lived in a holding pond at a chemical plant, in water filled with molecules that don’t exist in nature, so the mutated enzyme gene just happened to allow it to make an enzyme that could break down one of those man-made chemicals into smaller molecules the bacterium could use for food. This was by chance, and a poor fit, and has a very low efficiency—but to the bacterium, it was a superpower. The bacterium now had access to a food source no other bacteria on Earth could claim—the man-made chemicals in the holding pond.

The mutant bacteria quickly dominated the holding pond, and over time, further mutations will invariably make it more efficient at feeding there and better adapted to whatever unique conditions exist there—eventually producing a new species.

Other well known mutants include:
  • All light skinned humans—an adaptation to non-equatorial latitudes.
  • All humans—we bear a defective gene that makes our jaw muscles dramatically smaller than in other apes for our size, which would be a marked drawback except it’s one of the factors that allows our brain to grow large enough to make tools and fire, eliminating the need for a more powerful jaw.
  • All humans who can digest milk protein after infancy—caused by several different mutations that occurred in different populations at different times.
Mutants : The Sherpas of Nepal

Mutation: For a 2010 study, Tatum Simonson, and colleagues scanned the genomes of Tibetan people living at high altitudes and found a handful of genes with distinct mutations that appeared to be related to oxygen metabolism and adapted to a low-oxygen environment.

Abilities :
  • Superb climbing ability. Have set many speed-climbing records.
  • Expert mountaineering skills.
  • Higher adaptation to the rough and rugged mountainous terrains compared to the average humans.
  • Higher lung capacity and vital capacity.

Physiological changes that allow these abilities-
  • The Sherpas' mitochondria are much more efficient at using oxygen.
  • "They're like a fuel-efficient car," said Levett. "You get more energy for less oxygen."
  • At high altitude, the blood flow within thee small blood vessels slow down in the non-Sherpa volunteers, but remain normal in Sherpas.

Bonus traits-

Highly friendly, social, and humble, they have been the backbone of thousands of mountaineering expeditions, carrying heavy goods and setting up the tents and ropes, all the while risking their own lives and doing them all under meager wages. They have been indispensable (from the very first summit) for the realization of that dream that many people wish to fulfill once in their lifetime, the dream of climbing the highest mountain peak in the world, Mount Everest.

The Bajau People of Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines). Real life “Aquamen”.

The Bajau are able to hold their breath much longer than the average people, up to 13 minutes and dive deep down to 60 meters underwater. [1] They are semi-nomadic people that lived and relied on the seas, with mostly fishes and seafood for their diet. [2]

No, they don’t have gills… [3]

But they have adapted/evolved much larger spleen compared to other people.

Even as toddlers they were able to swim naturally. The nomadic Bajau babies were born next by the sea, and get introduced to it right after birth. [4]

[1] 'Sea Nomads' Are First Known Humans Genetically Adapted to Diving
[2] Sama-Bajau - Wikipedia
[3] Common Misconceptions about Sama

Radiotrophic fungus

A strange fungus has been growing in and around the abondoned Chernobyl reactor, an environment where nothing should actually survive.

The fungi appears to perform radiosynthesis, that is, to use the pigment melanin to convert gamma radiation from the destroyed nuclear reactor into chemical energy for growth. Melanin is the same biochemical which gives humans, their skin color, although other species or microorganisms can have it too.

Where nothing should survive, the organism thrives. That’s a mutant to me and it just may help us reach deeper parts of space as it is now being researched as a method to shield the space travellers from radiation in space.[1]

[1] Testing Chernobyl fungi as a radiation shield for astronauts

Javier Botet.[1] You may not know his name, but he’s made a stellar career playing monsters in movies, made possible because he’s got Marfan syndrome - a genetic disorder that affects connective tissue and makes people grow very tall and thin, with exceptionally long arms and legs.[2] Botet is 6′7″ (over 2 meters) tall and weighs 120 pounds (54.4 kg).

[1] Javier Botet - Wikipedia
[2] Marfan syndrome - Wikipedia

source: https://www.quora.com/Who-are-well-known-real-life-mutants

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