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Last Universal Common Ancestor Study Interested in First Degrees of Separation

Last Universal Common Ancestor Study Interested in First Degrees of Separation

William F. Martin and friend.  (Heinrich-Heine-Universitat)

By    |   Tuesday, 26 July 2016 03:20 PM

The Last Universal Common Ancestor, known as Luca, is coming into focus with a genetic portrait generated by scientists.

The single-cell, bacterium-like organism is thought to have lived on Earth four billion years ago, The New York Times reported.

By studying gene sequences of bacteria and archaea, believed to be the earliest domains of life joined later by eukaryotes, scientists have discovered that Luca likely thrived in deep sea vents and metabolized hydrogen as a source of energy, the Times reported.

The group of evolutionary biologists, led by William F. Martin of Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, Germany, published their study Monday in the journal Nature Microbiology.

The study identified 355 genes that Luca probably possessed.

“It was flabbergasting to us that we found as many as we did,” Martin said, according to New Scientist.

Martin described Luca as "half alive," saying that the organism lacked many genes necessary for life and may have been relying on chemical components from its environment, the Times explained. He said the organism may have been very near the origin of life.

Others argue that Luca was a highly sophisticated organism evolved beyond the origin of life, saying that because Lucas was shown to have the ability to synthesize proteins, it likely also could synthesize simpler components, even though genes for doing so weren't identified.

"It’s like saying you can build a 747 but can’t refine iron," Steven A. Benner of the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution told the Times.

The question has implications in the debate about where life began. Scientist have long speculated about where life began, with hypotheses ranging from land-based pools, to deep sea vents and clay environments, The Christian Science Monitor noted.

Martin called his study "spot on with regard to the hydrothermal vent theory."

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The Last Universal Common Ancestor, known as Luca, is coming into focus with a genetic portrait generated by scientists.
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2016-20-26
Tuesday, 26 July 2016 03:20 PM
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