How Earth’s Primordial Soup Came to Life
by Clara Moskowitz
Just as species are thought to have evolved over time, the individual molecules that form the basis of life also likely developed in response to natural selection, scientists say. Life on Earth first bloomed around 3.7 billion years ago, when chemical compounds in a “primordial soup” somehow sparked into life, scientists suspect. But what turned sterile molecules into living, changing organisms? That’s the ultimate mystery.
By studying the evolution of not just life, but life’s building blocks as well, researchers hope to come closer to the answer. The molecules swimming in early Earth’s primordial soup would have been continually destroyed by ultraviolet radiation from the sun, as well as heat and other processes on the planet. But when certain special pairs of molecules combined to form a larger compound, they sometimes came out with protections that neither had alone.
“When molecules interact, they start taking on properties they don’t have as individuals, but do gain when they’re in a complex,” Robert Root-Bernstein, a physiologist at Michigan State University, said Sunday (Feb. 19) here at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “This provides a means of natural selection.”…
(read more: Live Science) (image: NASA | JPL)