The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life

Author: Nick Lane
This Year Hacker News 2


by AprilArcus   2022-05-04
I don't enjoy the science writing at Quanta. Their articles in fields I know something about are so inarticulate and misleading that I have to doubt whether their reporting in fields to which I am largely ignorant (particularly the publication's namesake, quantum mechanics) would stand up to scrutiny.

In this case, you should know that the phagocytic model of endosymbiosis has been radically upended since the successful culturing of a Lokiarchaeota in (ecto)symbiosis with a delta-proteobacterium in 2019 by Imachi et al.

"Isolation of an archaeon at the prokaryote–eukaryote interface"

The striking images of the branching, filamentous prokaryotic Lokiarchaeotum grappling its metabolic partner resembled nothing I had ever seen in biology before, save maybe the mycorrhizal root nodules of a legume at a ~2000x smaller scale. The prevailing model of the process of eukaryotic endosymbiosis is now "entangle-engulf-endogenize", rather than phagocytosis, which might be a secondary post-mitochondrial lifestyle adaptation.

If the Nature paper is difficult for you to read or access, this summary is well written and provides better citations than the Quanta article.

"Challenging Eukaryogenesis: The Story of the Eukaryotic Ancestor"

If you are interested in this topic, I cannot praise Nick Lane's nonfiction trilogy of books on mitochondria and evolution highly enough:

  • "Oxygen: The Molecule that Made the World" (2002)
  • "Sex, Power, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life" (2005)
  • "The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life" (2015)
by sleavey   2017-08-19
The article seems to suggest he's simulating a "soup" of many different molecules and seeing which combinations lead to sustained reactions. Nick Lane's book "The Vital Question" [1] discounts the primordial soup idea (that life arose in tidal pools or streams near volcanos due to the right chemical mixture being present in the water at that time) and suggests underwater alkaline hydrothermal vents as the location of the first formation of life. The hydrothermal vents produced (see also his recent paper [2]) alkaline fluids which mixed with acidic seawater within micropores provided by the geological structures of a particular type of vent. This, he hypothesises, led to proton gradients which are essential for life.

Of course, both these guys are experts at the top of their fields, at respected institutes. I possess neither of those qualities.