Archives

Origin & Evolution of Life: July 2013


How Did Life On Earth Get Started?

Three papers co-authored by Mike Russell at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory strengthen the case that Earth's first life began at alkaline hydrothermal vents at the bottom of oceans. Scientists are interested in understanding early life on Earth because if we ever hope to find life on other worlds - especially icy worlds with subsurface oceans such as Jupiter's moon Europa and Saturn's Enceladus - we need to know what chemical signatures to look for.

The chemical components crucial to the start of life on Earth may have primed and protected each other in never-before-realized ways, according to new research led by University of Washington scientists.

Purple bacteria contain pigments that allow them to use sunlight as their source of energy, hence their color. Small as they are, these microbes can teach us a lot about life on Earth, because they have been around longer than most other organisms on the planet.

Conventional scientific wisdom has it that plants and other creatures have only lived on land for about 500 million years, and that landscapes of the early Earth were as barren as Mars.