The Maui firestorm was so vast and fast that most identification of human remains will come from bits of persisting DNA from mitochondria.
The "Powerhouse of the Cell"
Most people likely last encountered mitochondria in high school biology class. The footprint-shaped "powerhouse of the cell" releases energy from breaking the chemical bonds that hold together nutrient molecules. The energy released in digesting food is held, fleetingly, in molecules of ATP, which serves as an energy debit card of sorts.
Each mitochondrion harbors its own tiny genome, a mere 36 genes compared to the 20,000 or so in a human cell's nucleus. And mitochondrial genes aren't just copies of nuclear ones – they're unique. Most encode enzymes that extract energy from ATP.
Mitochondria likely came from bacteria that single-celled organisms in ancient seas engulfed about 1.5 billion years ago. The idea is famous in biology as the endosymbiont theory. The bacteria in their new cellular homes, over time, retained some genes while surrendering others to the nucleus. And, gradually, the ancient bacteria evolved into mitochondria. Two recent reports in ScienceAdvances describe a contemporary contender for a descendant of the original stowaway bacterial genome that birthed mitochondria.
To continue reading, go to DNA Science, where this post first appeared.