All life on Earth could have descended from this microbe 4 billion years ago

Scientists in Germany say they have discovered our very first relative - and its name is LUCA

All life on Earth could have descended from this microbe 4 billion years ago

Picture by: David Goldman / AP/Press Association Images

Scientists have found what they claim is the last universal common ancestor of all life on Earth. 

The microbe has been nicknamed LUCA - which stands for last universal common ancestor - and essentially it could be our very first relative.

Researchers at the University of Dusseldorf, Germany published their findings in the Nature Microbiology journal.

William Martin and his colleagues from the university said that life on Earth likely formed around hydrothermal vents, such as those found near undersea volcanoes, where heated water that was rich in hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and minerals could be found.

The team discovered that the last universal common ancestor of all life on Earth was a heat-loving, hydrogen-consuming organism that emerged over 3.8 billion years ago.

The team analysed nearly 2,000 genomes belonging to modern-day microbes and found that there are 355 protein groups that still remain that come from our ancestor microbe where the archaea and bacteria split and evolved separately. 

"The data support the theory of an origin of life in a hydrothermal setting," researchers wrote in their study.

Although scientists will never likely be sure about the exact chemical events that resulted in the origin of life on Earth, some of the earliest living organisms have left behind fragments of themselves in the genes passed on to their descendants. These genes were analysed in the search for clues about LUCA.