New Astrobiology Online Course Starts July 14th

The Coursera Massively Open On-Line Course (MOOC), Emergence of Life, is built upon the pioneering work of Carl Woese, on which the modern synthesis of the Tree of Life has been established.

No prior knowledge is required, just a willingness to learn and a desire to delve into Earth’s 4-billion-year history of Life. The course will traverse from the ancient primordial soup into the expansive and diverse Tree of Life, and how these understandings might point us towards the existence of Life elsewhere in the universe.

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the NASA Astrobiology Institute for Universal Biology, and the Institute for Genomic Biology have partnered to present this educational opportunity, made possible with the contributions of scientific experts from around the world, including Karl Stetter, Norm Pace, Jan Sapp, Mike Russell, and Nigel Goldenfeld.

Please join us in this unique 8-week journey through history, evolution, geologic change, and discovery of the universality of Life! Registration, course information and a 2-minute video overview are available at

Source: [University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign]

via NASA Astrobiology Articles


Starting With the Oceans, Single-Celled Organisms Will Re-Inherit the Earth – Motherboard


Starting With the Oceans, Single-Celled Organisms Will Re-Inherit the Earth
Trout will die out, whales will fail, but unicellular bacteria and archaea (a type of microorganism) are going to flourish. Animals can only develop and reproduce up to a temperature threshold in the water of about 41 degrees Celsius, or 105 degrees
The key to adaptation limits of ocean dwellers
Scientists uncover the key to adaptation limits of ocean dwellers

via archaea – Google News

Archaea: The First Domain of Diversified Life

The study of the origin of diversified life has been plagued by technical and conceptual difficulties, controversy, and apriorism. It is now popularly accepted that the universal tree of life is rooted in the akaryotes and that Archaea and Eukarya are sister groups to each other. However, evolutionary studies have overwhelmingly focused on nucleic acid and protein sequences, which partially fulfill only two of the three main steps of phylogenetic analysis, formulation of realistic evolutionary models, and optimization of tree reconstruction. In the absence of character polarization, that is, the ability to identify ancestral and derived character states, any statement about the rooting of the tree of life should be considered suspect. Here we show that macromolecular structure and a new phylogenetic framework of analysis that focuses on the parts of biological systems instead of the whole provide both deep and reliable phylogenetic signal and enable us to put forth hypotheses of origin. We review over a decade of phylogenomic studies, which mine information in a genomic census of millions of encoded proteins and RNAs. We show how the use of process models of molecular accumulation that comply with Weston’s generality criterion supports a consistent phylogenomic scenario in which the origin of diversified life can be traced back to the early history of Archaea.

via Archaea