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Evolution: Prehistoric Creatures Told By Ancient Steroids | Nature | Nature’s portfolio

Research press release


June 8, 2023

Evolution: Ancient steroids tell of prehistoric life

A paper on the discovery of a new type of steroid in ancient rocks was published this week.natureTo be published in The findings confirm the long prehistory of complex eukaryotes and confirm Nobel laureate Konrad Bloch’s prediction of the existence of primitive steroid molecules.

Eukaryotes are believed to have a long history of two billion years. Eukaryotic fossils are rare, so molecular fossils are sought instead. One example is the steroid metabolites that each type of eukaryote may leave in rocks. However, finding such fossils is not easy. Now, Jochen Brooks and his colleagues suggest that these biomarkers were present in the rocks in a way they weren’t expected. Brooks and colleagues report the discovery of molecules called prosteroids in sedimentary rocks of the Mesozoic Proterozoic. This confirms the ecological dominance of early eukaryotes in aquatic environments from at least 1.6 to 800 million years ago.

Bloch was the first to predict the existence of protosteroid molecules. In 1994, Bloch found that each of the short-lived intermediates produced at each step of the long biosynthetic pathway from lanosterol to cholesterol was, hundreds of millions of years ago, a well-adapted end product, and each product suggested that an evolutionary improvement over its precursor . However, Bloch concluded that these primordial intermediate particles will never be found because they do not live in the geological record. The current study by Brocks and colleagues shows otherwise, suggesting that traces of protosteroids may persist in rocks for more than a billion years.

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doi: 10.1038/s41586-023-06170-w

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