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Hot springs were a catalyst for origins of life on Earth, study claims

Published Jan 16th, 2024 6:50PM EST
old earth

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Hot springs may have served as a catalyst for the origins of life on Earth billions of years ago, a new study has suggested. The study, which is featured in Nature Communications Earth & Environment, suggests that primordial hot springs could have helped produce life from key molecules found within them.

To learn more about this, researchers at Newcastle University looked at how the earliest known life on Earth emerged from geological materials more than 3.5 billion years ago. To study this, they mixed bicarbonate, hydrogen, and iron-rich magnetite under the same conditions you would find in a hot spring or hydrothermal vent.

The resulting reaction created a spectrum of organic molecules, including notable fatty acids up to 18 carbon atoms in length, the study highlights. This study was funded by the United Kingdom’s Natural Environmental Research Council and seeks to understand how the origins of life may have sprung up from these primordial springs.

hot springs that might have been birthplace of origins of life on EarthImage source: rmbarricarte / Adobe

The researchers theorize that these same notable fatty acids could have been the threads that helped create the first cell membranes, allowing for life to emerge from the hot soup of ancient springs. The team says that this particular piece of work is an important step in better understanding how the origins of life on Earth.

And there have been many theories over the years. Some theorize that the origin of life on our planet came from space, from the various asteroids, comets, and meteorites that interacted with our planet during its earliest days.

And, of course, other theories are that life evolved from changes wrought on our planet itself, like this particular theory that everything began in the primordial hot springs of ancient times. All these theories could help us better understand where life originated from, though finding the specifics will probably still take some time.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.