LUCA Was Ocean-Sized

ONCE upon a time, 3 billion years ago, there lived a single organism called LUCA. It was enormous: a mega-organism like none seen since, it filled the planet’s oceans before splitting into three and giving birth to the ancestors of all living things on Earth today.

This strange picture is emerging from efforts to pin down the last universal common ancestor- not the first life that emerged on Earth but the life form that gave rise to all others.

The latest results suggest LUCA was the result of early life’s fight to survive, attempts at which turned the ocean into a global genetic swap shop for hundreds of millions of years. Cells struggling to survive on their own exchanged useful parts with each other without competition – effectively creating a global mega-organism.

It was around 2.9 billion years ago that LUCA split into the three domains of life: the single-celled bacteria and archaea, and the more complex eukaryotes that gave rise to animals and plants (see timeline). It’s hard to know what happened before the split. Hardly any fossil evidence remains from this time, and any genes that date that far back are likely to have mutated beyond recognition.

I picture that giant thing from “Akira”.  It’d be the more docile version, though.

[Via New Scientist]

[Picture via Zazzle]


14 Responses to LUCA Was Ocean-Sized

  1. Pay no attention to the zealot. They'll be stuck in the middle ages while the rest of us who understand and embrace science keep moving into the future.

  2. At first I pictured that giant cell from the ending of "Evolution", that comedy from 2001. Anyone remember that movie? It's one of my favorites. :P

  3. um hate to burst your bubble Don, but between 4 and 4.5 BILLION years is the accepted age of the Earth……(unless you are a creationist weenie who should not be allowed outside without a keeper…then the Earth was, according to James Ussher, created at nightfall on what he calculated to be October 22nd, 4004 BCE., making it all of 6015 years old, give or take a month…lol.) Of course this flies in the face of the evidence of scientifically dated sophisticated cave drawings 30,000 years old, and purpose made fine crafted hand tools dating back 1,760,000 years

  4. "Cells struggling to survive on their own exchanged useful parts with each other without competition " Right there is a denial of Darwinism and evolution. There is always competition, even if those in competition exchange useful parts. Bacteria exchange genes even today, and to say there is no competition is ridiculous.

    Take off your rose colored glasses.

    SOPA/PIPA delenda est!

  5. "a global mega-organism"? Naa… "MEGA" doesn't give it justice; Not even "GIGA". I vote for "TERRA" since it's virtually covering the entire planet! :)

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