Symbiont acquisition as neoseme: origin of species and higher taxa.

We examine the hypothesis that, in the origin of species and higher taxa of eukaryotes, symbiont acquisition followed by partner integration has been equivalent to neoseme appearance leading to speciation. The formation of stable symbiotic associations involves partner-surface recognition, behavioral and metabolic interaction, and, in some cases, gene product (RNA, protein) and genic (RNA, DNA) integration. This analysis is applied here to examples of neosemes that define specific taxa and to neosemes in plants, fungi, and animals that involve the appearance of new types of tissue. If this hypothesis is correct--if the origin of major genetic variation leading to speciation and even higher taxa may occur through symbiont acquisition and integration--then the analysis of "origins of species and higher taxa" becomes analogous to the study of microbial community ecology.