The traditional view of evolution says that genes are passed along from ancestor to offspring. This view is currently being expanded to include horizontal gene transfer.
Horizontal gene transfer is any process in which an organism transfers genetic material (i.e. DNA) to another cell that is not its offspring. By contrast, vertical transfer occurs when an organism receives genetic material from its ancestor, e.g. its parent or a species from which it evolved. Most thinking in genetics has focussed on the more prevalent vertical transfer, but there is a recent awareness that horizontal gene transfer is a significant phenomenon.
Horizontal gene transfer is common among bacteria, even very distantly-related ones. For example, this process is thought to be a significant cause of increased drug resistance; when one bacterial cell acquires resistance, it can quickly transfer the resistance genes to many species.
Who knew that bacterie were open source :o)
Why is this interesting? It provides yet another example of cooperation in nature – yet another reason to believe that nature does not favour the strong, tough and ruthless, that quite to the contrary, nature favours those who can and do cooperate.
And so does the business world.