A team of researchers has recently discovered microorganisms called Lokiarchaeota deep beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.
According to the experts, the newly discovered life form could be one of the missing links that contributed to the formation of complex cellular life.
The scientists say that complex cellular life on Earth started to evolve approximately 2 billion years ago.
But prior to that, about 1.5 billion years before, our planet was populated exclusively by simple, single cells.
According to the researchers, in order for more advanced life forms to develop the evolution of complex cellular life was crucial.
However, the scientists were not really certain about the steps that led to this.
The newly discovered life form was found at 1.5 miles beneath the ocean surface, in the vicinity of a hydrothermal vent system called the Loki’s Castle.
This is located in the mid-Atlantic Ridge, at about 7,700 ft under the waters, between Greenland and Norway.
The eukaryotes, which are complex forms of cells, had an important role in the evolution of complex forms of life, such as fish, dinosaurs, and later humans.
The eukaryotes are equipped with a distinct type of nucleus inside their membranes; they also have a multitude of organelles, which are essential for carrying out all the eukaryotes’ biological functions.
Lokiarchaeota belongs to a group of prokaryotes called Archaea. This group does not have a true nucleus.
However, the researchers say that by analyzing the cells they discovered that their genes have adapted in a similar way to the more complex cells.
This could have helped the ancient life form evolve into more complex one over the next 2 billion years.
Thijs Ettema, an expert in evolutionary microbiology at the Uppsala University, explained that the Lokiarchaeota could be the missing link of the evolution that led to the complex species of today, including humans. It could hold the answer to the question of our origins.
Lokiarchaeota was named after Loki, the Norse god of fire, which was famous for playing tricks and pranks on humans.
Biologist Carl Woese was the first one to discover the archaea in the 1970s. His findings are extremely important because they added a new piece in the puzzle that is the tree of life.
Biologists were perplexed to discover how these extremely simple organisms contributed to the evolution of more complex life forms.
The scientists detailed their recent discoveries in the journal Nature.
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