By Natural Philosopher Mike Prestwood
Timeline Story

First Life: Self-Replicating Molecules

First Life: Self-Replicating Molecules

Absolute Years From Now: -3950000000
Story Reference Date: 04/01/2024

The appearance of self-replicating molecules, such as RNA or similar nucleic acid analogues, signified a monumental leap towards life. These molecules had the ability to store genetic information and catalyze their own replication, laying the foundational mechanism for heredity and evolution by natural selection, driving the complexity forward towards the emergence of life as we understand it.

Survivors: None survive today, but viruses are an interesting related non-life thing. While not considered life by all definitions, they are essentially genetic material (DNA or RNA) enclosed in a protein coat and must hijack a host cell’s machinery to replicate. Some RNA viruses might resemble the early RNA world’s self-replicating molecules in their simplicity and replication methods.

Another interesting and related thing in modern life are plasmids and transposons. In bacteria and some other organisms, there are DNA molecules known as plasmids and transposons that replicate independently of the host’s chromosomal DNA. While they are part of complex cellular life and rely on the cell’s machinery for replication, their ability to replicate independently echoes the autonomy of early self-replicating molecules.

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