Protobiological Emergence

The appearance of the earliest life forms has often been referred to as a primary emergence. Although many of the properties occurring during this phase of evolution have been repeated, over and over again their appearance still qualifies them as emergent properties. As examples, the emergence of life, emergence of animals, or the emergence of bird feathers from reptile scales can be mentioned to characterize situations of primary emergence.

Many examples found in the literature deal with the formation of the earliest cells. Biochemical cycles, the organization and exchange of information by DNA or RNA and the compartmentalization of material within membranes are but a few examples. Molecular complementarity, defined as ''nonrandom, reversible coupling of the components of a system,'' has been argued to be a widespread mechanism in biological systems and important for the understanding of the processes lying behind emergent properties. The seemingly (self)organization of molecules observed in prebiotic systems, such as Turing structures and autocatalytic hypercycles (see Autocatalysis), can be seen as emergent properties already at a very low level of organization.

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