Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
In Search of Cell HistoryThe Evolution of Life's Building Blocks$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Franklin M. Harold

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226174143

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226174310.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 30 June 2022

The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life

Universal Phylogeny and Its Discontents

(p.18) Chapter Two The Tree of Life
In Search of Cell History

Franklin M. Harold

University of Chicago Press

The idea that all living things arose from their progenitors by descent with modification, and that this history can be depicted as a great tree, goes back to Darwin and beyond. Construction of a universal tree became possible after Carl Woese introduced ribosomal RNA sequences as a molecular chronometer. The tree consists of three great stems, or domains, designated Bacteria, Archaea and Eukarya, and this tripartite division is now generally accepted. But soon a serious complication arose: lateral transfer of genes between species, genera and even domains is common, particularly among prokaryotes. Lateral gene transfer erodes the phylogenetic trace, and has led some to question the very principle of a tree of life, but the division of all living things into three domains has held up. It is not easy to assign absolute dates to their emergence. The prokaryotes, Bacteria and Archaea, clearly go back more than 3 billion years. Modern Eukarya are much more recent, a billion years or so, but the eukaryotic lineage appears to be very ancient, possibly comparable to the prokaryotic ones.

Keywords:   tree of life, ribosomal RNA, three domains, lateral gene transfer, molecular phylogeny, dating the divergences, Carl Woese

Chicago Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.