A recent was conducted by experts from Heinrich Heine University in Germany. It was published in the journal Nature and it proved we all have something in common. And that is LUCA – The Last Universal Common Ancestor. It links all living beings on earth, from microbes to people. It first formed in Earth’s hydrothermal vents. And it is a very peculiar organism, only half-alive.
Bill Martin, study leader, has declared that even though these findings were hypothesized by scientists, so far no one had been able to confirm their hypothesis with hard evidence. Now, confirmation became possible, through studying 6.1 million genes from across species.
What Bill Martin’s team did was to create a family tree according to each genetic profile and then they used computer models to make connections between the oldest species and the newer ones. Some of the oldest species to inhabit earth were bacteria, which are made of microorganisms which don’t have a nucleus. Archaea is a special type of bacteria, which has a slightly different cell structure, so it cannot be considered a complete bacterium.
LUCA is an organism which can get nutrients from simple substances found in its surroundings. It can also integrate nitrogen and carbon. It’s got enzymes which help it do that. The conclusion was that LUCA lived on gasses found in hot geysers on the ocean bed. In a sense, it had an ancient metabolism.
Besides revealing the origins of LUCA, scientists learned valuable information about its descendents. Among these more evolved descendents were 355 species of trees, which continued to thrive on Earth’s surface. But LUCA also had other descendants, such as bacteria and microbes powered by hydrogen. These are called Clostridia. They cause gangrene, tetanus and colitis. They ‘re still around, as you might have guessed.
These information is valuable to scientists as it can be used in experiments with early forms of life and ultimately it could help design new treatments for a lot of diseases. Some of the genes present in those early organisms are thought to have evolved to help the human body adapt to high temperatures.
What we know for sure is that these types of bacteria still thrive in geysers, hot springs and hydrothermal vents.
Are you happy we all have something in common? Leave a comment below!
Image Source – Wikipedia