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Molecular Evolution - The Antiquity Of Life, Building The Building Blocks: Rna Nucleotides, Linking Subunits Into Chains - Goals for Future Research

genetic earth nature replication genetic

All life on Earth is cellular and uses DNA to store genetic information. However, evidence suggests that, on ancient Earth, much complex chemical activity preceded cellular development, and it was probably not DNA-based at the start. What was the nature of this activity, and how did it lead to life? "Molecular evolution" is a term used to describe the stages that preceded the origin of life on Earth. The term implies that information-containing molecules were subject to the process of natural selection, whereby genetic structures were capable of both replication (the copying of specific nucleic acid sequences) and mutation. In addition, it is theorized that certain chemical reactions may have taken place on early Earth, before true evolution began, and some of these reactions may have helped to form these informational molecules that enabled replication and mutation.

Theories of molecular evolution have been based on the paradigm that RNA (or a similar structure) served as the first genetic molecule. Many gaps remain in our understanding, from the assembly of the individual units, to the replication of RNA sequences. Further advances in the study of catalysis, especially with minerals and ribozymes, may provide new avenues for future researchers to explore.

William J. Hagan

Bibliography

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Hayes, John M. "The Earliest Memories of Life on Earth." Nature 384 (1996): 21-22.

Joyce, Gerald F. "RNA Evolution and the Origins of Life." Nature 338 (1989):217-224.

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———. "The Origin of Life on the Earth." Scientific American 271 (Oct. 1994): 77-83.

Von Kiedrowski, Gunter. "Origins of Life: Primordial Soup or Crepes?" Nature 381 (1996): 20-21.

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Evolution of Genes - Natural Selection, Point Mutations In Existing Genes, Alleles, Gene Duplication, Gene Families, Pseudogenes [next] [back] Eugenics - British Origins, Positive And Negative Eugenics, Mendelian Inheritance, Intelligence Testing, And American Eugenics

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