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Complex cells may have evolved due to a shortage of trace metals


Scientist

Complex cells may have evolved due to a shortage of trace metals

By Michael Marshall Pyrite, a mineral that forms in the sea, traps trace metalsMILLARD H. SHARP / SCIENCE PHOTOTrace metals like iron and copper became rare in the oceans between 2 and 1.2 billion years ago, after having been abundant for the previous billion years. This decrease may have caused a crisis for the simple…

Complex cells may have evolved due to a shortage of trace metals

By Michael Marshall

New Scientist Default Image

Pyrite, a mineral that forms in the sea, traps trace metals

MILLARD H. SHARP / SCIENCE PHOTO

Trace metals like iron and copper became rare in the oceans between 2 and 1.2 billion years ago, after having been abundant for the previous billion years. This decrease may have caused a crisis for the simple microorganisms of the time, ultimately leading to the evolution of complex cells.

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The oldest known living organisms were single-celled microorganisms called bacteria and archaea. However, nowadays there is a third group of organisms called eukaryotes, which have larger and more complex cells. Many eukaryotes are …

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