We're almost sure by now that the first cell was born in a some kind of underwater vents environment which harvested all the necessary conditions for it to exist.

However, did the first cell self-replicate to have other cells or did the same process lead to the birth of others as well? If the latter is true, doesn't this make the evolution of cells more common once the primitive conditions exist?


closed as primarily opinion-based by David, theforestecologist Aug 20 at 22:22

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Your question implies that the first life form (however you want to define that) had a cellular shape, but this is not necessarily the case: you can have i.e. self-replicating RNAs that don't need any form of 'cell' and could represent some sort of precursor stadium to cellular lifeforms in general $\endgroup$ – Nicolai Aug 15 at 14:22
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Biology.SE! This is an interesting area to speculate about, but due to the paucity of evidence there is no consensus about the origins of life. As a result your question is probably beyond the scope of this site. ——— To learn more you may wish to check out the help pages starting with How to Ask questions effectively on this site. Thanks! 😊 $\endgroup$ – tyersome Aug 16 at 0:40

Good question. Simple answer here: we have absolutely no idea.

I would hazard a guess to say that the first proto-cell probably did not have the ability to replicate, so there must have been many proto-cells prior to the occurrence of the first true cell with the property to replicate itself with some degree of fidelity. Whether or not at some point cells existed that could be traced to two or more independent abiotic generations, that is unknown. The likelihood of this event is all we can talk about. I defer to biochemists working on this (still very open) problem, but I think it is honest to mention that they too have no idea, really. This is because, as we can surely appreciate, likelihood and outcome are two entirely different things. And unlikely events happen all the time. Each life form and individual is astonishingly unlikely, but historical contingency so happens to have brought us all here despite the odds.

  • $\begingroup$ "The likelihood of life occurring by chance is fantastically improbable". Everything indicates that life shouldn't exist and yet here we are. Plus, everything is connected too; if a single link was missing, we wouldn't be here. It will always blow my mind. I'll give time for other answers to be fair. Thank you!! $\endgroup$ – Odin Aug 14 at 12:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Odin You are mistaken by saying "Everything indicates that life shouldn't exist and yet here we are." . The probability of life forming is unfathomably low but the sample space is unfathomably large. With sufficient time and sufficient chemical reactions, it becomes a statistical inevitability for a molecule like RNA to form. The period of almost a billion years between the formation of the earth (4.5 Ga) and the emergence of life (ca. 3.7 Ga), along with the inordinate number of molecules in the primordial soup outweighed the miniscule probability of life emerging $\endgroup$ – Jam Aug 14 at 19:07

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