Steve's Herpetological Blog

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Nick Lane – A Bioenergetic Basis for the Three Domains of Life

On the 15th March, I visited the Linnean Society of London to attend a talk by the esteemed UCL Evolutionary Biochemist Dr. Nick Lane titled ‘A Bioenergetic Basis for the Three Domains of Life’. I’m a big fan of Nick’s books having read ‘Oxygen: The Molecule that Made the World’ whilst I was in Borneo in 2016. I also own a number of Nick’s other books which I am embarrassingly yet to read. Nick’s talk was something that I was particularly looking to as it was a summary of his research (and that of others) on abiogenesis.

The plaque on the wall of Burlington House, the home of The Linnean Society of London

The talk focused on the differences between the three domains of life, trying to unweave the puzzling origins of each and how they relate to each other. This is made harder by the fact that visually bacteria and Archaea are almost indistinguishable in size and morphology, but when you look at them on a genetic level they are very different. Eukaryotes (including ourselves) again are very different and one of points raised by Nick is that genetic divergence alone cannot explain this morphological complexity. If it did then there would be many more instances where bacteria or Archaea evolved something resembling the complexity of Eukaryotes, over their ~4 billion years of evolution. Eukaryotes are though to have arisen in an endosymbiosis between prokaryotes. This explains the existence of mitochondria and chloroplasts in Eukaryote cells, which resemble bacteria and have their own genomes.

Nick opening his talk (sorry for the bad quality)

After the talk, there was a reception for drinks and nibbles. This allowed me the time to network with some of the other attendees before speaking to Nick about his talk to ask a few questions that had come to mind. I had a pleasant time and I’ve got to say that Nick is a wonderful chap and was even happy to sign some books for me as well. Now all I’ve got to do is to read them!

Nick kindly signed my copy of ‘The Vital Question’ which addresses some of the questions also raised in his talk


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