Life On Earth Started After Meteorites Splashed Into Warm Ponds

Posted: Oct 8 2017, 5:23am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
Life on Earth Started after Meteorites Splashed into Warm Ponds
Present-day warm little pond on the Bumpass Hell trail in Lassen Volcanic National Park in California. Credit: Ben K.D. Pearce, McMaster University

New research says that meteorites may have spawned life on Earth

Life on Earth may have started on Earth around 3.7 billion years ago, a time when our newborn planet was being bombarded by meteorites and delivered essential ingredients to the warm little ponds. Researchers came to that conclusion based on the studies of various disciplines, focusing on the origin of life on Earth.

“No one's actually run the calculation before," said Ben Pearce, one of the lead authors of the study. "This is a pretty big beginning. It's pretty exciting."

It's one of the most intriguing questions of all - how did life on Earth begin? Scientists have debated for years the various possibilities that could have triggered life on Earth and the arguments only became more heated in recent years as many have suggested that it was brought to Earth from some kind of celestial body or possibly meteorites. The concept of “warm little ponds” has also been around for decades. It was first presented by Charles Darwin in 1871, but its plausibility was never tested until now.

In the latest effort, researchers have combined the conclusions drawn from astrophysics, geology, chemistry, biology and other disciplines and have found a way to show that everything necessary for life did not originate on Earth, instead, it came to us from meteorites after they splashed into warm little ponds.

“Because there are so many inputs from so many different fields, it's kind of amazing that it all hangs together," said co-author Ralph Pudritz from McMaster's Origins Institute. "Each step led very naturally to the next. To have them all lead to a clear picture in the end is saying there's something right about this."

Molecules that gave rise to the first polymers of life, such as RNA, started when small molecules interacted with each other and formed ordered structures. Calculations suggest that combinations of wet and dry conditions allowed RNA polymers, delivered by meteorites, to bond with nutrients found in ponds and constituted the first genetic code for life on the planet.

“DNA is too complex to have been the first aspect of life to emerge. It had to start with something else, and that is RNA,” said Pudritz.

“We're thrilled that we can put together a theoretical paper that combines all these threads, makes clear predictions and offers clear ideas that we can take to the laboratory.”

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