Approximately 1200 million years ago (MYA) single-celled organisms living in the hot soupy environment on the Earth’s surface started to form multi-cellular clusters, which ultimately lead to complex life forms of today such as animals and plants.
Until recently just how this step had occurred remained a mystery to scientists. However, they have now replicated this key step in the laboratory using the common single-celled Brewer’s yeast.
They effectively allowed the yeast to ‘evolve’ into a multi-cellular cluster, which then worked cooperatively, reproduced and adapted to its environment.
George Gilchrist, the acting deputy division director of the National Science Foundation’s Division of Environmental Biology, the institute that funded the research, had this to say:
The finding that the division-of-labor evolves so quickly and repeatedly in these ‘snowflake’ clusters is a big surprise. The first step toward multi-cellular complexity seems to be less of an evolutionary hurdle than theory would suggest. This will stimulate a lot of important research questions.
These findings have drastic implications for how life evolved on Earth, and will undoubtedly lead to more scientific questions and experiments. Perhaps too, we’ll soon have bread that evolves legs and puts itself in the toaster and onto your plate… epic implications for breakfast!