Biology

Organism discovered that has remained unchanged for more than 2 billion years

Organism discovered that has r...
A section of a 2.3 billion-year-old rock bearing fossils (the dark areas) that are essentially identical to ones that are 500 million years younger, and to modern microorganisms that live in seawater mud (Photo: J. William Schopf/UCLA Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life)
A section of a 2.3 billion-year-old rock bearing fossils (the dark areas) that are essentially identical to ones that are 500 million years younger, and to modern microorganisms that live in seawater mud (Photo: J. William Schopf/UCLA Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life)
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1.8 billion year old fossilized bacteria preserved in rock (Photo: J. William Schopf/UCLA Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life)
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1.8 billion year old fossilized bacteria preserved in rock (Photo: J. William Schopf/UCLA Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life)
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Scientists say that a type of deep-sea microorganism has not evolved in more than 2 billion years (Image: J. William Schopf/UCLA Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life)
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Scientists say that a type of deep-sea microorganism has not evolved in more than 2 billion years (Image: J. William Schopf/UCLA Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life)
A section of a 2.3 billion-year-old rock bearing fossils (the dark areas) that are essentially identical to ones that are 500 million years younger, and to modern microorganisms that live in seawater mud (Photo: J. William Schopf/UCLA Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life)
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A section of a 2.3 billion-year-old rock bearing fossils (the dark areas) that are essentially identical to ones that are 500 million years younger, and to modern microorganisms that live in seawater mud (Photo: J. William Schopf/UCLA Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life)
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Claimed to be the greatest lack of evolution ever discovered, a deep-sea microorganism – sulfur bacteria – recently uncovered by an international group of scientists is reported not to have evolved for more than 2 billion years. Despite it appearing to be an aberration in nature, researchers say that the microscopic creature’s unchanging nature actually supports Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Dating back to a period in Earth’s history between 2.2 billion and 2.4 billion years ago known as the Great Oxidation Event (GOE), microorganisms such as the studied sulfur bacteria began to appear. The oxygen rise in the GOE had been produced by cyanobacteria over the 200 million years previous when oxygen production was so copious that it could no longer be chemically contained in sinks like dissolved iron or organic compounds, and it accumulated in heavy concentrations in the atmosphere. This event was also accompanied by an equally intense increase in sulfate and nitrate – essential nutrients for bacteria – and, as a result, the bacteria were able to flourish and reproduce in enormous numbers.

Skip forward some 2 billion-odd years, and scientists looking at similar fossilized sulfur bacteria in rocks off the Western Australian coast, noted that those which were 1.8 billion years old were exactly the same in every way to those which had existed 2.3 billion years ago. Whilst this was considered unusual, it was not until recently – when other scientists discovered that both these sets of microorganism fossils were also completely indistinguishable from the same sulfur bacteria that exist today off the coast of Chile – that the penny dropped about how unusual this actually was. The microorganism had not changed in any way for over 2 billion years.

"It seems astounding that life has not evolved for more than 2 billion years – nearly half the history of the Earth," said Professor J. William Schopf, director of UCLA’s Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life. "Given that evolution is a fact, this lack of evolution needs to be explained."

Scientists say that a type of deep-sea microorganism has not evolved in more than 2 billion years (Image: J. William Schopf/UCLA Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life)
Scientists say that a type of deep-sea microorganism has not evolved in more than 2 billion years (Image: J. William Schopf/UCLA Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life)

Darwinian concepts of evolution are largely premised on the observed changes in species whose attributes mutate over time to fit with changes in their environment. As such, any organisms whose characteristics alter in successive generations in ways that allow them to better adapt to altering living conditions are the ones who best suit their environment and are best able to carry on their evolutionary line.

To some this lack of change over 2 billion years may seem contradictory to Darwinian evolution. However, this behavior is actually in keeping with it. The scientists themselves explained that the environment in which these microorganisms live has remained essentially unchanged for 3 billion years.

"The rule of biology is not to evolve unless the physical or biological environment changes, which is consistent with Darwin. These microorganisms are well-adapted to their simple, very stable physical and biological environment," said Professor Schopf. "If they were in an environment that did not change but they nevertheless evolved, that would have shown that our understanding of Darwinian evolution was seriously flawed. It fits perfectly with his (Darwin’s) ideas."

Despite a common misconception regarding the term "survival of the fittest", Darwinian evolution does not necessarily mean that the strongest or toughest survive. Darwin used that statement to mean those creatures that were of the best fit, as in "fit for purpose" in their environment, not necessarily the ones that could fly the highest or run the fastest. The ancient sulfur bacteria are a perfect example of this – they simply were best suited to their environment and as their environment didn't alter they also didn't need to evolve to survive.

To thoroughly analyze the fossils, Professor Schopf employed a number of techniques including Raman spectroscopy – where information about molecular vibrations induced through electromagnetic excitation (generally with a laser beam) is analyzed and used for sample identification of composition and chemistry – along with confocal laser scanning microscopy, which has an ability to acquire in-focus images from selected depths. In other words, in "3D".

Professor Schopf is credited with pioneering the use of these techniques in the analysis of microscopic fossils sealed within primeval rocks.

The multinational team included researchers and scientists from UCLA, the University of Wisconsin, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the University of New South Wales, Australia, and the Universidad de Concepción in Chile. Their findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Source: UCLA

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11 comments
Nicky Hansard
What had to random changes through the generations?
ripshin
Wow, just like cagw, where even the absence of change (e.g. 0 increase in global temp for 15+ yrs...according to the satellite record) is proof of this "settled science", we now have the absence of evolution as proof of this "fact".
With such restless and skeptical minds at the helm of our scientific inquiry, how could we possibly go wrong?
rip
Guy Macher
Nothing shakes the faith of the devoted followers of evolution.
Expanded Viewpoint
What "random changes" are being referred to here? How do you know that they really were "random", and by that word I think that you actually mean spontaneous? Can you point to any such changes that were recorded by anyone, besides yourself? A change in any organism's DNA that is caused by exposure to radiation or a chemical compound or element is NOT a spontaneous event, and maybe not even be a real random event either, as those things are outside (meaning environmental) changes/forces. Do you see this? You need to open up your eyes in order to be able to see. To Ripshin; If anyone really believes that a lack of temperature change is proof of global warming, man made or otherwise, then use the converse and let them stick their hand in a pot of boiling water to prove that the water is not any hotter than it was before the heat was applied to it. Or did you confuse something there in your statement?
Randy
rutnerh
Not surprising! Perfectly supports Darwin's valid theory of intra species evolution by natural selection in response to environmental stress, as empirically proven in his Galapagos experiments: in this case of no stress, obviously no evolution or physical change. But his second theory of vertical inter species evolution is pure philosophical speculation without supporting evidence of random mutations leading to anything but reduced complexity and in organisms to damaging or lethal mutations. But evolutionists consciously or unintentionally have mingled 2 theories, on scientific and the other philosophical into a hybrid called evolution thereby misleading a gullible public including many scientists into accepting random upward evolution as " scientific fact". Nothing could be further from the truth. Hr rationally grounded industrial never academic scientist
Lbrewer42
"Given that evolution is a fact, this lack of evolution needs to be explained."
Welcome to the modern Dark Ages. We have come full circle. But this time the people who so adamantly want to deny religious belief are playing the part of those they so adamantly claim were the fools in the past... the religious community of the day.
Yes - b/c no evolution occurred with these organisms - it proves evolution! Global warming has not occurred (no kidding) during the last 15 years we have been being told it is a proven science - but yet global warming is a still a "proven science."
Its amazing how roles can be switched with enough time. And these (pseudo) "scientists" have also played out several teachings of what religious people have known to be true for centuries: 1. ... man does not change (our toys are higher tech - but the mind of man is still a prideful - egotistical - place). 2. "He that diggeth a pit will fall therein" (reversed roles - the "scientists" are the ones promoting we ignore observable fact). 3. "Professing themselves to be wise - they became as fools." What else can you say about someone who actually asks us to swallow that the opposite of what supports their theory is also proof of their theory?
Observable data does not prove evolution - far from it. Genetics, fossil records, and even the media-pushed/applauded but fairy tale dating methods (study it deeply and how it relies upon constant amounts of certain isotopes over all of time, when evolution itself demands everything was changing). Evolution is as much a faith based system as any religious system.
If you don't believe it... look into Stephen Hawkins writings where he cites "some mysterious force" expanded the matter on the universe as part of the alleged "Big Bang."
Want more? Black holes - the FACT they exist has been touted by the media for a loooong time. And now Hawkings, who discovered them - is saying they don;t even exist! http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/science-technology/455880/Stephen-Hawking-says-there-is-no-such-thing-as-black-holes-Einstein-spinning-in-his-grave
Evolution is a fact? Welcome to the modern Dark Ages. Pitiful isn't it?
bobcat4424
This article is quite a bit out of date as far as the science goes:
1) Darwinian Evolution --- the slow incremental evolution of one species into another by natural selection --- has not been accepted as valid in around 40 years. The best reason is that such gradualism was never supported by the fossil record. 2) The current theory is Punctuated Equilibrium (PE) which proposes that organisms remain the same for very long periods of time and then suddenly, for unknown reasons, undergo "explosions" of evolution and speciation. It is supported by the fossil record. 3) We do not know precisely what causes the large sudden bursts of evolution that we see in Punctuated Equilibrium (most researchers postulate it is some vague unknown "stress") and we do know why it happens simultaneously in unrelated species, environments, and locations. 4) A grand example of PE is what is current happening with hummingbirds. There is an ongoing explosion in the number of species of hummingbirds with 2-3 new species a year. It is happening globally in populations that are under stress and populations that are not stressed in any known way. 5) There is nothing about a fossil record of a species that did not evolve significantly for billions of years. It neither proves nor disproves Darwinian Evolution which would have required random changes over time that apparently are not there. It does, however, fit with PE which does not require that an organism change in any way, either by natural selection or random occurrence.
christopher
@bobcat4424: LOL - two words mate: "peppered moth"
Bob
Scientific theories are useful but suddenly become a detriment when they are presented as FACT. It gets even worse when these sacred theories have obvious flaws which are then supported by imaginary concepts rather than simply formulating a new theory.
warren52nz
Oh oh. Here come the religious with an endless string of strawmen.