There are millions of species alive on Earth today. But how did life get started in the first place? Tom Ireland travels back through four billion years of history to find out
The origin of life - how long ago was that?
Around four billion years ago, when the Earth was still partially molten and under heavy bombardment from meteors, the very first life-like systems appeared. Somehow, chemicals developed life-like properties - using matter and energy from the hellish environment to make more of themselves. Origin of life researchers are still trying to work out exactly how, during this period, chemistry suddenly became biology.
Once basic biological systems formed, life never looked back, evolving into the two enormously diverse groups of microbes now known as bacteria and archaea. A merger between two of these ancient cell types, billions of years later, is thought to have given rise to more complex, multicellular organisms - including us, and all the plants, fungi and animals that ever lived.
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