All multi-cellular life as we know it is composed or eukarotic cells -- cells with a nucleus. Some single-celled organisms are eukarotic, some are prokaryotic (cells without a nucleus, such as bacteria.)

Brief research indicates that prokaryotic multicellular life would be unlikely.

But would some other form of non-eukarotic, but non-microscopic life be possible? If so, do we have any way of guessing what it's biochemestry might be like?

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    $\begingroup$ The assertion that 'if it were likely, it would probably exist' is a bit of a weird one here, as it's possible that eukaryotic multicellular life simply got there first and dominated so completely that prokaryotic multicellular life never really got the chance to develop. Evolution loves it's little ironies. $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Sep 29, 2015 at 15:48
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs good point. $\endgroup$ Sep 29, 2015 at 16:40
  • $\begingroup$ Orion's Arm speculates on the existence of life, the "soft ones," that is not based on cells at all. $\endgroup$
    – Anonymous
    May 23, 2016 at 15:08

3 Answers 3


It is (theoretically) possible. We are talking sponges here. Since sponges don't operate as a system, rather are a collection of cells stuck together by collagen (which improves their chances of survival, versus lone cells). You could get the same type of structure with a prokaryote colony.

Essentially all cells would be secreting some binding protein (collagen or not collagen is your call). All cells would be the same type. No collective circulatory, respiratory, feeding or excretory systems.

There might already have been colonies of prokaryote cells known as stromatolites which date as back as 3.8 to 4.2 billion years.


Prokaryotic multi-cellular life exists, but is very primitive.

The earliest multicellular life forms were all prokaryotes, first appearing around 3 to 3.5 billion years ago (Grosberg and Strathmann, 2007) and exhibiting cellular diversification starting over 2 billion years ago.

They aren't terribly complex, of course, looking something like this: enter image description here

Ultimately, prokaryotes are good at forming into globs, and can even manage globs in specific shapes, but their evolutionary repertoire doesn't extend much beyond that, probably due to an inferior information storage system when compared to the DNA nuclei of eukaryotes. It's likely that this pattern would be seen in extraterrestrial life, as well, with complex multicellular life arising from creatures with the capacity to store lots of information in a DNA-like structure. These creatures wouldn't be eukaryotes, per se, since they don't share a common ancestor, but would be the alien equivalent.

  • $\begingroup$ Wish I could accept both answers! $\endgroup$ Oct 1, 2015 at 11:03

There is non-eukariotic multicellular life.

For instance,

Nostoc pruniforme: enter image description here

Spirulina: enter image description here


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