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Title: The origin of eukaryotes and rise in complexity were synchronous with the rise in oxygen
The origin of eukaryotes was among the most important events in the history of life, spawning a new evolutionary lineage that led to all complex multicellular organisms. However, the timing of this event, crucial for understanding its environmental context, has been difficult to establish. The fossil and biomarker records are sparse and molecular clocks have thus far not reached a consensus, with dates spanning 2.1–0.91 billion years ago (Ga) for critical nodes. Notably, molecular time estimates for the last common ancestor of eukaryotes are typically hundreds of millions of years younger than the Great Oxidation Event (GOE, 2.43–2.22 Ga), leading researchers to question the presumptive link between eukaryotes and oxygen. We obtained a new time estimate for the origin of eukaryotes using genetic data of both archaeal and bacterial origin, the latter rarely used in past studies. We also avoided potential calibration biases that may have affected earlier studies. We obtained a conservative interval of 2.2–1.5 Ga, with an even narrower core interval of 2.0–1.8 Ga, for the origin of eukaryotes, a period closely aligned with the rise in oxygen. We further reconstructed the history of biological complexity across the tree of life using three universal measures: cell types, genes, and genome size. We found that the rise in complexity was temporally consistent with and followed a pattern similar to the rise in oxygen. This suggests a causal relationship stemming from the increased energy needs of complex life fulfilled by oxygen.  more » « less
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Frontiers in Bioinformatics
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National Science Foundation
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