Chapter

When Did Life Begin?

J. William Schopf

in Life's Origin

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2002 | ISBN: 9780520233904
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520928701 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520233904.003.0007
When Did Life Begin?

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This chapter aims to trace the course of biologic evolution. It begins by constructing a Universal Tree of Life to reveal the genealogical relations among all organisms living today. Using this technique to determine which biologic traits date from near life's beginnings, it is possible to gain insight into what the earliest life forms may have been like. Using fossil records of ancient microbes and their chemical signatures left in rocks, we can trace life's roots back though time to show what kinds of organisms were present early in Earth's history and set a firm date on how long life has existed. The history of our planet's formation can also be read from the scarred and cratered surface of its moon, thus shedding light on when Earth first became a habitable abode.

Keywords: biologic evolution; Universal Tree of Life; fossil records; ancient microbes; moon

Chapter.  6657 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Evolutionary Biology

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