Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Earth Science

Did Life Emerge In Ponds Rather Than Ocean Vents? 97

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the life-evolved-in-coca-cola dept.
ananyo writes "The prevailing scientific view holds that life began in hydrothermal vents in the deep sea. But a controversial study (abstract) suggests that inland pools of condensed and cooled geothermal vapor have the ideal characteristics for the origin of life. The study hinges on the observation that the composition of the cytoplasm of modern cells is very different to that of seawater. On the other hand, the mix of metal ions in cytoplasm is (almost exclusively) found where where hot hydrothermal fluid brings the ions to the surface — places such as geysers and mud pots. There are a number of problems with the study, however — for instance, a lack of land 4 billion years ago would have made it difficult for life to start in such pools."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Did Life Emerge In Ponds Rather Than Ocean Vents?

Comments Filter:
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @11:18AM (#39044715)

    First you college boys, with your fancy book smarts, try to tell me my grandpa was a monkey. Now you're calling him pond scum! Jesus will make you commie elitists pay when you die!

    • by DC2088 (2343764)
      Does he take checks?
    • by ByOhTek (1181381)

      Of course not, if you aren't that far up the ladder, how could your grandfather be?

    • by chispito (1870390)
      Given the difficulty in providing evidence in this field, do you really find it that difficult that someone would find any particular theory (or all of them, for that matter) complete rubbish?
    • by TheLink (130905)

      Jesus will make you commie elitists pay when you die!

      OK. Can l give him my soul as payment?

    • by OakDragon (885217)
      Why do we always start with this shit?
  • Spoilers (Score:5, Funny)

    by eternaldoctorwho (2563923) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @11:20AM (#39044753)
    I know that a River can come from Ponds.
  • Does this mean that life on exoplanets without deep seas and hydrothermal vents is still possible? Perhaps a more arid world, where water isn't quite as common as on Earth. I'm interested to see what implications this has for the search for life. It could expand the possible amount of planets that are likely to evolve life.
    • Re:Interesting. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ColdWetDog (752185) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @11:53AM (#39045137) Homepage

      Does this mean that life on exoplanets without deep seas and hydrothermal vents is still possible?
      Perhaps a more arid world, where water isn't quite as common as on Earth.
      I'm interested to see what implications this has for the search for life. It could expand the possible amount of planets that are likely to evolve life.

      Sure. So far we (seem) to have only one data point for conditions that allow for biological activity. We can postulate many others but until we get probes on Mars, Arcturus and other heavenly bodies, it's just a guess.

      As, of course, is TFA. Interesting theory - that current ion concentrations within the cell more or less faithfully represent the ion concentrations of some ancient ancestor due to the inherent conservation bias found in living organisms (if it works, it works, keep it around). The big problem with that idea, IMHO, is that it can just as easily be postulated that very early life was unable to keep ion gradients within the cell (because they did not have an established, complicated cell membrane) but didn't need to because, well, because they were barely conscious pond scum and didn't need the ion gradient (or whatever) found inside modern cells because they were dumb and primitive and did nothing besides make a couple more copies of themselves. Perhaps the folding and unfolding of the primitive nucleic acid (likely RNA or something similar [wikipedia.org] to it) was more tolerant to ion fluxes than the complicated machinery we have now.

      Interesting however. Much better than the typical PR piece.

      Thus, they may have evolved anywhere where conditions were favorable for the primordial pond scum, be it hydrothermal vents or whatnot.

    • by g0bshiTe (596213)
      I think this would assume a water based life form, currently we only have data to support and confirm the existence. No doubt other forms of life are out there perhaps not water based.
    • I've wondered how much temperature would affect early life. More specifically if the day/night cycle worked like a PCR machine on the early stages of life. If that were the case some other cyclical temperature change might need to occur where the sun is not as much of an influence. Of course I could just be talking out my ass.
  • by peter303 (12292) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @11:38AM (#39044961)
    The gist I got from Robert Hazen's course on the Origin of Life is that the metabolic citric cycle and protein polymerization does not require enzymes in high pressure and in certain mineral substrates. Otherwise you have the chicken-egg problem of how to elvolve these special enzyme proteins first. Dr. Hazen generated many of these results in the lab.
  • Prevailing View? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mrxak (727974) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @11:42AM (#39044987)

    This is actually a bit surprising to me. Years ago, which admittedly was the last time I payed any attention to such things, the theory that life first formed in little pools was the common explanation. Up near the surface is where a lot of the energy was from sources such as the sun, volcanos, lightning, etc. I could be wrong in remembering this, but the primordial soup was always depicted as fairly shallow pools (though, perhaps, saltwater tide pools).

    • I always though the prevailing view was life starting near the ocean vents. Energy was derived via chemosynthesis. Some of those lifeforms worked their way to the surface eventually evolving photosynthesis and thus became more independent. From there, life spread to all corners of the Earth from a substance that covers 3/4ths of its surface.

    • Re:Prevailing View? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ColdWetDog (752185) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @12:01PM (#39045219) Homepage

      There are, as usual, competing ideas. Ever since hydrothermal vents were discovered to be full of living things in supposedly inhospitable conditions (which really isn't true, there is plenty of life in an abyssal plain surrounding a hydrothermal vent, it just isn't as photogenic as it's glopping around in the mud) it has been thought that perhaps these structures were candidates for nurturing very early life forms. Such vents were likely to occur as soon as water precipitated. So you have water (of some unknown ionic concentration, likely fairly anoxic), dissolved metal ions, dissolved bits of clay (both useful as a catalysts) and energy. Next thing you know kids are texting and doing drugs....

      I could wave my flippers and postulate that there were micro environments in the vents that were also ion rich but that's just speculation ...

  • All Good Things... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @11:46AM (#39045043)

    In the final episode of TNG we saw that life began in some sort of pond or tidal pool, not deep under the surface of the ocean.

  • OMG (Score:4, Funny)

    by bwintx (813768) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @11:50AM (#39045101)
    Life began in skin care products? Bizarre.

    /ducks
  • Judging from my experiments, the early conditions for life must have been similar to the Chinese food containers in the back of my refrigerator. From which two questions remain. 1. How did the refrigerator originate 4.5 billion years ago? 2. Who ordered Chinese?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      My experience with Chinese food left for too long is that it starts to stink not because of biological processes, but bilological chemistry.
      There's way too much Na (salt, msg) and acidity for any kind of life as we know it to develop. The anti-life propensities can be seen from its shrinking the corn and carrots.

      Besides, we know from Terry Pratchett that life started from a piece of egg and cress sandwich. This is also proof that the egg was first.

      • My experience with Chinese food left for too long is that it starts to stink not because of biological processes, but bilological chemistry...

        My experience with Chinese food left unsupervised is that it mysteriously disappears of its own accord -- That is, according to the testimony of any roommates present.

  • ... this planet is not the only thing existing. Meaning life may have come into being in some other, yet to realize, environment and transferred here and else where in any number of ways. Perhaps its more interesting how there are those of the human species bent on killing life.

    Or we can go all the way back to before the beginning where there was an absence of anything and all, until that absence became aware of itself and split into the blackboard of existence and the whiteboard of consciousness bot with p

  • Depends on perspective. If movement is life then electrons move inside an atom and septillions+ of complex combinations of these movements gives rise to the so called life from human perspective. From non-human universal perspective it appears that the whole universe is alive.
  • There are so many chicken-and-egg problems in Origin of Life research. Everything is screaming "design" but that's rule out from the outset. So we are left with each hypothesis trying to explain a part but then falling on all the other evidence. Its like playing whack-a-mole.

    Good luck to all the naturalistic scenarios.

  • Huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rs79 (71822) <hostmaster@open-rsc.org> on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @12:42PM (#39045733) Homepage

    Why is this idea that life happened *once*? Precursor reactions invariably happened many times all over the place. Who knows how many time it almost began and didn't quite make it, or began and got wiped out. Eventually, obviously, it happened and life fanned out from there. But I'm guessing it happened all over the place and not just one time in one place. The odds would seem to be against that.

    • by Mr Z (6791)

      Not only that, but could it be that some of the pieces came from one place and others from others? For example, you could have one set of reactions near hydrothermal vents, filling the ocean with one set of building blocks, and another happening on land. A major land shift or oceanic event then mixes the two sets. Wash, rinse, repeat over a billion years. To me, the argument that it couldn't happen on land because what land there was was too unstable is more an argument that it could happen with pieces

    • More to the point. If life started here, why are there not multiple parallel trees of life ? ie. No evidence of other extinct geneses, and no new geneses ?
  • Are we talking plant or animal? I was under the impression that ocean stromatolites were first.
    • We are not talking about plants, or animals, here, but probably bout some kind of precursor to cyanobacteria, which are commonly called blue-green algae, and also occur in stromatolithes.
  • Q: You see this? This is you. I'm serious! Right here, life is about to form on this planet for the very first time. A group of amino acids are about to combine to form the first protein - the building blocks...
    [chuckles]
    Q: ...of what you call "life". Strange, isn't it? Everything you know, your entire civilization, it all begins right here in this little pond of goo. Appropriate somehow, isn't it? Too bad you didn't bring your microscope; it's really quite fascinating. Oh, look! There they go. The amino ac

  • There is no "ideal" condition for the spontaneous generation of life because there is no situation where mere rules can separate laevo-rotary from dextra-rotary amino acids. Randomness = death.
  • Hey, give me $12,000,000 in funding and I'll have an answer for you in 10 years: Which was first, life or land? :>

  • "The study hinges on the observation that the composition of the cytoplasm of modern cells is very different to that of seawater." Seawater now or seawater 4 billyun years ago?
  • "Why is this idea that life happened *once*? Precursor reactions invariably happened many times all over the place. Who knows how many time it almost began and didn't quite make it, or began and got wiped out. Eventually, obviously, it happened and life fanned out from there. But I'm guessing it happened all over the place and not just one time in one place. The odds would seem to be against that." True enough. I almost happened several tiems before my parents finally hit the jackpot.
  • for instance, a lack of land 4 billion years ago would have made it difficult for life to start in such pools."

    Unless, of course, land wasn't lacking.

    There are two problems with this assertion. First, the near complete absence of any evidence. The oldest unmodified rock is a bit over 3 billion years old. And some heavily modified rock nears four billion years in age. I imagine the most definitive evidence out there would be four billion year old meteors on the Moon (and perhaps other bodies in the Solar System) from Earth. We haven't gotten those yet.

    Second, the real problem with this assertion of no land is t

  • Who says there was no land 4Billion years ago? I'm standing near some of that age right now.
  • The study hinges on the observation that the composition of the cytoplasm of modern cells is very different to that of seawater.

    I always thought this was the whole point.

    In animals, the inside our cells has high levels of potassium and low levels of sodium. Outside the cells the sodium concentration is higher (~140mmol/L) and potassium lower (~4mmol/L); there is also an electronegativity difference (i.e. stick a tiny probe inside and one outside the cell membrane and you'll see a voltage). It is like this because of the Na K ATPase pump. The difference between the two concentrations acts as a source of potential energy for other thi

Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.

Working...