Scientists have long been missing an evolutionary piece of the evolution of multicellular organisms a billion years ago. An international research group may now have found it in a fossil with prehistoric lipid particles.
Researchers at the Australian National University and the University of Bremen in Germany have discovered some now-extinct eukaryotes that could have been the world’s first predators. Article in the journal Nature.
The microscopic organisms, called Protosterol biota, have been found in the Barney Creek Formation in Australia.
Sedimentary rocks deposited on the sea floor in prehistoric times can be dated back 1.6 billion years.
The researchers found the new species by looking specifically for sterols.
Sterols are a type of waxy fatty substance found naturally in both plants and animals. Sterols, such as cholesterol, help keep cell membranes stable.
The reason researchers look for sterols is because almost all eukaryotes produce them.
The researchers found molecules with some alleged original chemical structures they had not seen before.
Thus, fossils are the molecular remains of these organisms, so unfortunately they don’t tell us anything about what eukaryotes looked like.
Researchers hope that experiments with lasers will eventually reveal something about appearance. However, they believe they were larger than the bacteria they were hunting.
Artist has side by side with researchers a number of illustrations With the AI of what protosterol organisms might look like.
For many years, scientists believed that the prehistoric oceans of a billion and a half years ago were dominated by bacteria, and that eukaryotes were rare. The new findings show that they were a huge part of life in the sea.
Researchers also believe that the Protosterol Biota began to go extinct 800 million years ago, when algae and sponges appeared.
In addition, there was a common opinion that more complex forms of life could be traced back to a common eukaryotic ancestor 1.2 billion years ago.
With the new discovery, this can now be pushed back a few million years.
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