All multi-cellular life may be the result of a genetic accident that happened more than 600-million years ago, according to a study published in the Journal eLife. Just a mutation that happened to occur at the right place and the right time.
All life on Earth began in the single-cellular state, life was once simple. Life used the ancient state of the Earth’s atmosphere, the moisture, and the Sun to essentially pull its own weight.
But then something happened – a genetic mutation in the proteins of the DNA of these single-cell life forms would change the course of life forever, creating the world’s first multi-cellular organism, and keeping the torch going to create what we have today.
Early single-cell life would adapt to survive in the ever-changing conditions of our young planet. This single-celled life would then learn specialized roles, and these single-cell life forms that were given specialized roles would then adapt to work together, forming complex bonds where each relied on one another to survive.
These complex bonds are what would lay down the foundation for multi-cellular life.
The study, which was led by University of Oregon biochemist Ken Prehoda, involved figuring out which gene mutation it was that caused this to happen. They studied microscopic spongy organisms known as choanoflagellates, which are found in the Ocean.
The team created computer models of the genes of the descendants of these choanoflagellates based off of the modern gene sequences using a technique that involved 'going back in time' to see an earlier date of the DNA makeup. It was found that proteins in the DNA were re-purposed for new functions early on and that this led to the changes in life that we have today.
“Our work suggests that new protein functions can evolve with a very small number of mutations,” Prehoda said in statement. “In this case, only one was required.”
The findings revealed that a gene used in making up the tail of the creature paved the way for giving cells the ability to function together and ultimately help in forming multi-cellular life that we know today.
It’s noted that although this step in genetic mutation probably played a big role in creating the life we have today, it’s not the only reason we’re here today.