Biogeochemical Cycles & Geobiology

Ancient Minerals on Earth and the Origin of Life

By Keith Cowing
February 19, 2014
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Ancient Minerals on Earth and the Origin of Life

Astrobiologists supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute have shown that mineral species on the early Earth may have been different than the ones found on our planet today.

The researchers concluded that no more than 420 different minerals were present at or near the Earth’s surface during the Hadean Eon. This is only 8 percent of the mineral species found in the present day.

During Earth’s first 550 million years, there were a limited number of processes available for forming mineral species. The majority of the 420 identified in the study were created from the crystallization of molten rock, and the alteration of this rock by hot water. Today, there are more processes acting on Earth to form mineral species, thousands of which are directly related to the biosphere.

The findings could cause scientists to re-think some origin-of-life models.

The study, “Paleomineralogy of the Hadean Eon: A preliminary species list,” was published in the American Journal of Science.

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