Mars rocks could provide vital clue to how life began on Earth

December 12, 2006
Mars

Studying rocks on Mars, which are among the oldest rocks in the Solar System, could provide scientists with key evidence of how the earliest forms of life arose on Earth, say researchers writing in this month’s edition of Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres.

Life on Earth was preceded by a period of chemical evolution during which inanimate organic matter was assembled into living systems. Unfortunately, no evidence of this period of evolution remains on Earth, as there are no rocks left on the planet old enough to have recorded trace evidence of the chemical events billions of years ago. This is because Earth is a geologically active planet, and any such ancient rocks have been consumed and recycled by the rock cycle.

However, there are still rocks on Mars today which have been there for 4.5 billion years, since both Earth and Mars were formed. Dr Randall Perry from Imperial College London's Department of Earth Science and Engineering suggests that these rocks may have preserved within them evidence of how chemicals evolved during the transition from pre-life to life. If present, this evidence would not only shed vital new light on how life came into existence on Earth, but could also prove that similar simple life forms were arising on Mars at the same time.

Dr Perry explains: "The kind of evidence I think might be found in these ancient Martian rocks would be traces of primordial polymers or some remnants of the failed chemistry of reproduction. It would be fascinating to use rocks from Mars to find out more about the complex and little-understood chemical process whereby matter on Earth evolved into what we would recognise as primitive forms of life.

"What's more, there is always the chance that Martian rocks may reveal more than just traces of ancient chemical changes: the opportunity might arise to find evidence of early forms of life on Mars which took a different evolutionary path to those on Earth."

Citation: Randall S. Perry and William K. Hartman, "Mars primordial crust: Unique sites for investigating proto-biologic properties," Origin of Life and Evolution of Biospheres. Published online 28 November 2006.

Source: Imperial College London

Explore further: Hebridean rock provides clue to life on Mars

Related Stories

Mars rover Curiosity views spectacular layered rock formations

September 10, 2016

The layered geologic past of Mars is revealed in stunning detail in new color images returned by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover, which is currently exploring the "Murray Buttes" region of lower Mount Sharp. The new images arguably ...

Geologic studies are a big part of upcoming space missions

September 14, 2016

In the coming decades, the world's largest space agencies all have some rather big plans. Between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), Roscosmos, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), or the China National Space ...

Recommended for you

Ancient global cooling gave rise to modern ecosystems

September 27, 2016

Around 7 million years ago, landscapes and ecosystems across the world began changing dramatically. Subtropical regions dried out and the Sahara Desert formed in Africa. Rain forests receded and were replaced by the vast ...

Researchers refining Arctic climate history through diatoms

September 27, 2016

Just above the Arctic Circle, in remote southwestern Greenland, UMaine researchers are seeking to better understand the effects of a changing climate on arctic lakes by looking at one of their smallest inhabitants—Discostella ...

Over 90% of world breathing bad air: WHO

September 27, 2016

Nine out of 10 people globally are breathing poor quality air, the World Health Organization said Tuesday, calling for dramatic action against pollution that is blamed for more than six million deaths a year.

Life in ancient oceans enabled by erosion from land

September 26, 2016

As scientists continue finding evidence for life in the ocean more than 3 billion years ago, those ancient fossils pose a paradox. Organisms, including the single-celled bacteria living in the ocean at that early date, need ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.