, Volume 37, Issue 4-5, pp 429-432
Date: 10 Jul 2007

Question 7: The First Units of Life Were Not Simple Cells

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Five common assumptions about the first cells are challenged by the pre-biotic ecology model and are replaced by the following propositions: firstly, early cells were more complex, more varied and had a greater diversity of constituents than modern cells; secondly, the complexity of a cell is not related to the number of genes it contains, indeed, modern bacteria are as complex as eukaryotes; thirdly, the unit of early life was an ‘ecosystem’ rather than a ‘cell’; fourthly, the early cell needed no genes at all; fifthly, early life depended on non-covalent associations and on catalysts that were not confined to specific reactions. We present here the outlines of a theory that connects findings about modern bacteria with speculations about their origins.

Presented at the International School of Complexity – 4th Course: Basic Questions on the Origins of Life; “Ettore Majorana” Foundation and Centre for Scientific Culture, Erice, Italy, 1–6 October 2006.