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Revolutions that made the Earth$
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Tim Lenton and Andrew Watson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199587049

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199587049.001.0001

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When did eukaryotes evolve?

When did eukaryotes evolve?

(p.229) 12 When did eukaryotes evolve?
Revolutions that made the Earth

Tim Lenton

Andrew Watson

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses the three main techniques for recognising when eukaryotes first appeared. Each technique, however, gives different answers, with its own set of problems. The most obvious source of evidence is the fossil record, especially of macroscopic and multi-cellular life, which now extends back into the Precambrian. The fossil record of the earliest eukaryotes is inevitably indistinct, but a different kind of fossil can help to date the origins of eukaryotes – the so-called ‘molecular fossils’. A third and last approach to dating the emergence of eukaryotes uses what have come to be called molecular clocks, where the molecules in question are DNA or RNA, or the proteins they encode.

Keywords:   eukaryotes, fossil record, Precambrian, molecular fossils, molecular clocks, DNA, RNA

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