New study overturns 'primordial soup' theory
Researchers say 80 years is long enough for the 'primordial soup' theory to stay on the stove. New research suggests that life on Earth emerged from deep-sea hydrothermal vents.
Thu, Feb 11, 2010 at 07:31 AM
Science Daily reports that the long-standing theory that a “primordial soup” was the origin of life on planet Earth is being challenged by new research. The new paper overturning the 80-year-old “soup” theory was published in BioEssays, and claims that it was Earth’s own chemical energy from hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor that was the driving force behind early life.
According to the Science Daily article, "Textbooks have it that life arose from organic soup and that the first cells grew by fermenting these organics to generate energy in the form of ATP. We provide a new perspective on why that old and familiar view won't work at all," said team leader Dr. Nick lane from University College London. "We present the alternative that life arose from gases ... and that the energy for first life came from harnessing geochemical gradients created by mother Earth at a special kind of deep-sea hydrothermal vent — one that is riddled with tiny interconnected compartments or pores."
The research team turned to the Earth’s chemistry in its rejection of the eight-decade strong “soup” theory. Without a sufficient source of energy, life on planet Earth could not exist. The researchers argue that geochemical gradients across a honeycomb of microscopic natural caverns at hydrothermal vents generated the lipids, proteins and nucleotides that may have given rise to the first life on Earth.
This new research shouldn’t come at much of a shock, as we are continually studying life near deep-sea hydrothermal vents. One inhabitant of these vents may actually inspire next generation armor. It seems fitting that we look to the place that this new research suggests life began in order to discover ways to prolong our future.
The team focused on the ideas of geochemist Michael J. Russell, who says that alkaline deep-sea vents produce chemical gradients similar to those used by almost all living organisms today. Early life forms most likely utilized these gradients through a process called chemiosmosis. According to William Martin, an evolutionary biologist from the Institute of Botany III in Düsseldorf, "The reason that all organisms are chemiosmotic today is simply that they inherited it from the very time and place that the first cells evolved – and they could not have evolved without it.”