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The evolution of major novel traits – characteristics such as wings, flowers, horns or limbs – has long been known to play a key role in allowing organisms to exploit new opportunities in their surroundings. What’s still up for debate, though, is how these important augmentations come about from a genetic point of view.

New research from an international team of evolutionary biologists, led by the University of Oxford, has used bacteria to show that acquiring duplicate copies of genes can provide a ‘template’ allowing organisms to develop new attributes from redundant copies of existing genes. (1)

In the beginning everything was useful.

Then useless things came to be.

The world started to evolve.

Gradually all the useless things became useful.

At the end, we will have everything.

As in the beginning.

When we had nothing.