Thursday, October 6, 2011

LUCA Was Complex

I'm said I'm going to start collecting examples of complex ancient life, and here's another one: a study of particular structures in archaea (a branch of microbes) suggests that the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA) was more complex than previously thought.

This is the article, and this is the science news story about it.

If J.R.R. Tolkien's ideas are right (and Owen Barfield's, whom he got them from), then we'll be seeing more and more of this. I'll be collecting them here for my memory and yours.

Lots of implications: from the simple "life is not an easy thing!" to the complex concept of "have we assumed too much about what constitutes 'progress' in biology?".

Great quote from the news article:

"You can't assume that the whole story of life is just building and assembling things," Whitfield said. "Some have argued that the reason that bacteria are so simple is because they have to live in extreme environments and they have to reproduce extremely quickly. So they may actually be reduced versions of what was there originally. According to this view, they've become streamlined genetically and structurally from what they originally were like. We may have underestimated how complex this common ancestor actually was."
File this with Brain Proteins Before Brains and the thioredoxin urzyme (coming soon, to a Day of Common Learning Lecture near you).

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