26. Origin of Life on Earth   Previous PageNext Page
       Precambrian Fossils

The first fossil evidence of cells with nuclei and internal structure like eucaryotes comes from dolomite rock from Beck Springs, California.

These rocks are 1.4 billion to 1.2 billion years old (shown on previous page). From this time on, the evidence is increasingly solid. The changeover of the atmosphere to oxidizing conditions, the development of enough O2-respiring procaryotes to show up plentifully in the fragmentary fossil record, and the development of eucaryotic cells, all apparently took place 1.8 to 1.3 billion years ago.

As an interesting sidelight to this chronology, one can compare the amino acid sequences from a protein that is present in many forms of life to obtain a rough measure of how distantly related these forms are, and how long ago their ancestors diverged.

The sequences of respiratory cytochrome c from more than 67 eucaryotic species have been compared, including vertebrates of all kinds, insects, microorganisms, and higher plants.

Examination of the rates at which the cytochromes change in different lines of descent suggests that plants and animals diverged approximately 1.2 billion years ago, in excellent agreement with the fossil evidence for early eucaryotes.

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