Primordial steroids solve longstanding mystery of how the first complex life forms evolved

Steroids discovered in 1.6 billion-year-old rock could help scientists solve a long-standing mystery about the evolution of single-celled life.

These compounds are produced by eukaryotic organisms, which are defined by having cells with membrane-bound nuclei and internal organelles. Modern eukaryotes include plants, fungi and animals. In contrast, prokaryotes – bacteria and archaea – lack these characteristics. Based on molecular data, researchers know that single-celled eukaryotes first evolved at least 2 billion years ago, but there are very few fossil records from their earliest days.

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