Image credit: Reuters/Center for Geobiology/University of Bergen, Norway
By Will Dunham
Deep beneath the Atlantic Ocean between Greenland and Norway, scientists have found microorganisms they call a missing link connecting the simple cells that first populated Earth to the complex cellular life that emerged roughly 2 billion years ago.
The researchers said on Wednesday a group of microorganisms called Lokiarchaeota, or Loki for short, were retrieved from the inhospitable, frigid seabed about 1.5 miles (2.35 km) under the ocean surface not too far from a hydrothermal vent system called Loki’s Castle, named after a Norse mythological figure.
The discovery provides insight into how the larger, complex cell types that are the building blocks for fungi, plants and animals including people, a group called eukaryotes, evolved from small, simple microbes, they said.
The Lokiarchaeota are part of a group called Archaea that have relatively simple cells lacking internal structures such as a nucleus. But the researchers found the Lokiarchaeota share with eukaryotes a significant number of genes, many with functions related to the cell membrane.
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