Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 79, Issue 5–6, pp 228–239 | Cite as

The Relative Ages of Eukaryotes and Akaryotes

  • David Penny
  • Lesley J. Collins
  • Toni K. Daly
  • Simon J. Cox
Original Article


The Last Eukaryote Common Ancestor (LECA) appears to have the genetics required for meiosis, mitosis, nucleus and nuclear substructures, an exon/intron gene structure, spliceosomes, many centres of DNA replication, etc. (and including mitochondria). Most of these features are not generally explained by models for the origin of the Eukaryotic cell based on the fusion of an Archeon and a Bacterium. We find that the term ‘prokaryote’ is ambiguous and the non-phylogenetic term akaryote should be used in its place because we do not yet know the direction of evolution between eukaryotes and akaryotes. We use the term ‘protoeukaryote’ for the hypothetical stem group ancestral eukaryote that took up a bacterium as an endosymbiont that formed the mitochondrion. It is easier to make detailed models with a eukaryote to an akaryote transition, rather than vice versa. So we really are at a phylogenetic impasse in not being confident about the direction of change between eukaryotes and akaryotes.


Akaryotes (prokaryotes) Eukaryotes older Exon/intron old Multiple centres of replication Nucleus 



This work was started for the Les Treilles foundation workshop on ‘The origins of sex and of modern eukaryotes’ held in the south of France in July 2012.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Penny
    • 1
  • Lesley J. Collins
    • 2
  • Toni K. Daly
    • 1
    • 3
  • Simon J. Cox
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Fundamental SciencesMassey UniversityPalmerston NorthNew Zealand
  2. 2.Health SciencesUniversal College of LearningPalmerston NorthNew Zealand
  3. 3.NorthTecWhangareiNew Zealand

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