Did Life Begin As A Ocean-Sized Lifeform?
November 27, 2011 7:56 AM   Subscribe

ONCE upon a time, 3 billion years ago, there lived a single organism called LUCA It wasn't the first life form but it may be the life form that gave birth to all life today. 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. The latest results suggest LUCA (last universal common ancestor) 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. Eventually, 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)
posted by 2manyusernames (26 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Neat, but looks like we had a thread about this last month. -- cortex



 
Bull! Everybody knows it was Picard directing all three Enterprises to create a static warp bubble and collapse the anti-time anomaly before it could become so big in the past that it prevented all life on earth from getting started.
posted by Mike D at 8:00 AM on November 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


ONCE upon a time, 3 billion years ago, there lived a single organism called LUCA

Sadly, the second floor had yet to be invented.
posted by jonmc at 8:03 AM on November 27, 2011 [17 favorites]


Double.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:04 AM on November 27, 2011


It's interesting to note that this was a single organism that was so successful that it, and its descendants, wiped out all other life on Earth, at least life of any type we know how to look for.
posted by Malor at 8:08 AM on November 27, 2011


So we would have ended up as Solaris had not the thing split, huh?
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:08 AM on November 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, and your title is bad. They think the universal ancestor was large and complex, and that it filled the oceans, but that doesn't mean it was ONE organism that filled the oceans. Rather, it was a whole lot of little ones. It was perhaps quite a bit larger than modern cells, but still of microscopic size.
posted by Malor at 8:10 AM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


This isn't a double but it is well, just like their opinion, man.

Their methodology is more than a bit wonky and, if you look at their figures, contradicts the much better established phylogeny that uses 16sRNA sequences. The conclusions derived by the new scientist article are ridiculous and not supported well by current evidence.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:10 AM on November 27, 2011


So we would have ended up as Solaris had not the thing split, huh?

No, in that alternate reality, I'm sure we'd have used AIX.
posted by Malor at 8:11 AM on November 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Malor: "Oh, and your title is bad. They think the universal ancestor was large and complex, and that it filled the oceans, but that doesn't mean it was ONE organism that filled the oceans. Rather, it was a whole lot of little ones. It was perhaps quite a bit larger than modern cells, but still of microscopic size."

There is some poetic license taken with the title and while it isn't literally true, the idea is from the article. They state that the "whole lot of little ones" shared so much material freely between them that it was effectively one giant life form.
posted by 2manyusernames at 8:20 AM on November 27, 2011


Can anybody explain what they mean by 'single organism'? I think it's probably a derail on the part of the people writing about the paper, and it really smacks of trying to use a common word in a very tenuous way in order make a splashy headline.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:22 AM on November 27, 2011


This seems interesting, but I'm dubious about anything from the New Scientist these days. Has anyone got other links addressing what seem like the big gaps and hyperbole here:

1) Is there any evidence that this was a single mega organism? That seems like the biggest leap in the article, totally unsupported by Common Ancestor research.

2) Does the protein structure analysis actually suggest one species with the specific traits described, or it it more like a "Greatest Common Denominator" of all the species extant back then?
posted by freebird at 8:23 AM on November 27, 2011


Okay, I'm not the only one. Can we get one of the moderators to break in to the New Scientist website and remove the article as

[Needlessly provocative. Try again, sticking closer to the facts.]
posted by benito.strauss at 8:27 AM on November 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Pandora's life with Epimetheus was happy except for her intense longing to open the box. She was convinced that because the gods and goddesses had showered so many glorious gifts upon her that this one would also be wonderful. One day when Epimetheus was gone she opened the box.

Out of the box flew all of the horrors which plague the world today - pain, sickness, envy, greed. Upon hearing Pandora's screams Epimetheus rushed home and fastened the lid shut, but all of the evils had already escaped.

posted by swift at 8:36 AM on November 27, 2011


Oh, and your title is bad.

Agreed. I would've used "My Name is LUCA."
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:37 AM on November 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


"It's a plausible idea," agrees Eric Alm of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But he says he "honestly can't tell" if it is true.

What that guy said.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:43 AM on November 27, 2011


The conclusions derived by the new scientist article are ridiculous and not supported well by current evidence.

That's a tautology.
posted by wemayfreeze at 8:45 AM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd like to see some sort of study that examines the increasingly common phenomenon of Metafilter posts that spring to life on planet Kottke.
posted by davebush at 8:49 AM on November 27, 2011


NewScientist

Stopped reading right there.
posted by clarknova at 8:49 AM on November 27, 2011


There have been earlier papers forwarding this theory...

There, in the grey beginning of Earth, the formless mass that was Ubbo-Sathla reposed amid the slime and the vapors. Headless, without organs or members, it sloughed from its oozy sides, in a slow, ceaseless wave, the amoebic forms that were the archetypes of earthly life.

Horrible it was, if there had been aught to apprehend the horror; and loathsome, if there had been any to feel loathing. About it, prone or tilted in the mire, there lay the mighty tablets of star-quarried stone that were writ with the inconceivable wisdom of the pre-mundane gods.

posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 8:50 AM on November 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


with an "ocean size" lifeform in it, where does the ocean go?
posted by kitchenrat at 8:50 AM on November 27, 2011


The City of Death Part 11: "The amniotic fluid from which all life on Earth will spring, with the amino acids fused to form minute cells -- cells which eventually evolve into vegetable and animal life. You Duggan..."

"I come from that, that soup?"

"Yes. Well, not that soup exactly. It's inert. There's no life in it yet. It's waiting on a massive dose of radiation."

"The Jagaroth ship."

"Yes. The explosion that caused Scarlioni to splinter in time also caused the birth of the human race, and that's what's about to happen. The birth of life itself."
posted by kliuless at 8:53 AM on November 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


"You're really not going to like it."
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:57 AM on November 27, 2011


Horrible it was, if there had been aught to apprehend the horror; and loathsome, if there had been any to feel loathing.

Clark Ashton-Smith, not Lovecraft, in case anyone's wondering. It's a great little story about going too far and dissolving into the primordial sludge.
posted by mediareport at 9:26 AM on November 27, 2011


Did Life Begin As A Ocean-Sized Lifeform

No, not by any reasonable stretch of the imagination. These writers should have their poetic licenses revoked. The LUCA was likely a large community of single-cellular organisms with a high degree of horizontal gene transfer. In no way does that make it a "single organism".
posted by Salvor Hardin at 10:09 AM on November 27, 2011


Something like this?
posted by sinnesloeschen at 10:09 AM on November 27, 2011


Aren't the U and C kind of redundant in that acronym? Were they just going for the Suzanne Vega jokes, or what?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:10 AM on November 27, 2011


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