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Origin & Evolution of Life: November 2013


Ancient Minerals: Which Gave Rise to Life?

Life originated as a result of natural processes that exploited early Earth's raw materials. Scientific models of life's origins almost always look to minerals for such essential tasks as the synthesis of life's molecular building blocks or the supply of metabolic energy.

Evolution can Select for Evolvability

Evolution does not operate with a goal in mind; it does not have foresight. But organisms that have a greater capacity to evolve may fare better in rapidly changing environments. This raises the question: does evolution favor characteristics that increase a species' ability to evolve?

Reconstructing the rise of life during the period of Earth's history when it first evolved is challenging. Earth's oldest sedimentary rocks are not only rare, but also almost always altered by hydrothermal and tectonic activity.

Clay May Have Been The Birthplace of Life

Clay, a seemingly infertile blend of minerals, might have been the birthplace of life on Earth. Or at least of the complex biochemicals that make life possible, Cornell University biological engineers report in the Nov. 7 online issue of the journal Scientific Reports, published by Nature Publishing.

The ongoing searches for exoplanetary systems have revealed a wealth of planets with diverse physical properties. Planets even smaller than the Earth have already been detected, and the efforts of future missions are placed on the discovery, and perhaps characterization, of small rocky exoplanets within the habitable zone of their stars.