How did complex life arise on Earth about two billion years ago? Research by an international team of scientists from Sweden, the United States, Australia and the Netherlands now provides a new perspective on the matter. In a study published this week in Nature Microbiology, the team presents a new model about the first complex cell types that make up plants, fungi, but also animals and people. They describe how complex cellular life forms developed in evolution through the metabolic integration of simpler cell types.
On the tree of life, humans share a branch with a diverse array of creatures, all with one thing in common: a backbone. This single shared characteristic is enough to group us with dogs, fish, and lizards, in a group called a phylum; this is repeated throughout Earth’s organisms, connecting all of life’s diversity into one tree.
When a virus infects a living cell, it hijacks and reprograms the cell to turn it into a virus-producing factory. Now scientists at the University of California have for the first time discovered just how extensive that reprogramming can be, effectively turning bacterial cells into animal or plant-like cells. This might even be how the cells of more complex organisms evolved in the first place.