Science : LUCA - Last Universal Common Ancestor & The Great Tree of Life

LUCA - Last Universal Common Ancestor & The Great Tree of Life

The last universal common ancestor or last universal cellular ancestor (LUCA), also called the last universal ancestor (LUA), is the most recent population of organisms from which all organisms now living on Earth have a common descent—the most recent common ancestor of all current life on Earth. A related concept is that of progenote. LUCA is not thought to be the first life on Earth, but rather the latest that is ancestral to all current existing life.

While there is no specific fossil evidence of LUCA, it can be studied by comparing the genomes of all modern organisms, its descendants. By these means, a 2016 study identified a set of 355 genes most likely to have been present in LUCA. The genes describe a complex life form with many co-adapted features, including transcription and translation mechanisms to convert information from DNA to RNA to proteins. The study concluded that the LUCA probably lived in the high-temperature water of deep sea vents near ocean-floor magma flows.

Studies from 2000 to 2018 have suggested an increasingly ancient time for LUCA. In 2000, estimations suggested LUCA existed 3.5 to 3.8 billion years ago in the Paleoarchean era, a few hundred million years before the earliest fossil evidence of life, for which there are several candidates ranging in age from 3.48 to 4.28 billion years ago. A 2018 study from the University of Bristol, applying a molecular clock model, places the LUCA shortly after 4.5 billion years ago, within the Hadean.

Charles Darwin first proposed the theory of universal common descent through an evolutionary process in his book On the Origin of Species in 1859: "Therefore I should infer from analogy that probably all the organic beings which have ever lived on this earth have descended from some one primordial form, into which life was first breathed." Later biologists have separated the problem of the origin of life from that of the LUCA.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_universal_common_ancestor




Scientists Trace Origins of Last Universal Common Ancestor

While we have covered the existence of a mitochondrial Eve (the basis for human life) in class discussions, what about microbial Eve? The last universal common ancestor, or LUCA, is the 'forerunner of all living things' according to Charles Q. Choi. Recent research suggests that LUCA had a more intricate structure than previously thought.

All living things stem from LUCA, a single celled ancestor traced back to 4 billion years ago. Since LUCA is single-celled and it has been proven that multicellular organisms evolved from these, it is surmised that LUCA was a prokaryote. Researcher William Martin set out to study LUCA's make-up by studying genes in bacteria and archaea. Martin's group discerned that they must only search for those bacteria and archaea that are shared by at least two modern species so they can prove genetic inheritance.

After twenty years and the sequencing of 2,000 microbes, the team found 355 gene families that were prevalent among these microbes, says Jason Daley of Smithsonian.com. This means they were likely the same genes passed down by LUCA. The genes lead scientists to believe that LUCA was a thermophile, meaning in thrived in high temperatures likely near hydrothermal vents under the ocean's surface. These vents occur where seawater and magma meet as a result of underwater volcanos. LUCA also lived in an environment void of oxygen but instead fed on hydrogen gas produced by the hydrothermal vents. The team's findings are published in Nature Microbiology There are modern microbes that live similarly, namely the prokaryotes Clostridia bacteria and Methanogen bacteria.

However, not all scientists are taking Martin's discover to mean these hydrothermal vents house the beginning of all life on Earth. Some such as John Sutherland believe they could have developed elsewhere and moved down to the vents as a form of preservation. Other theories suggest that UV rays from the sun where essential to beginning life, and there would be no UV rays this deep in the ocean. More research is still needed to prove or disprove Martin's theory, but this research has likely gotten us one step closer to knowing more about our origins and finishing the map of life.

https://wiki.uiowa.edu/display/2360159/2016/11/13/Scientists+Trace+Origins+of+Last+Universal+Common+Ancestor




https://phys.org/news/2018-12-luca-universal-common-ancestor.html

https://astrobiology.nasa.gov/news/looking-for-luca-the-last-universal-common-ancestor/

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2098564-universal-ancestor-of-all-life-on-earth-was-only-half-alive/

https://biologydirect.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1745-6150-3-29

https://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article?id=10.1371/journal.pgen.1007518

https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Birth-and-legacy-of-the-Last-Universal-Common-Ancestor-LUCA-A-large-evolving-and_fig2_5238788

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