Rock rafts could be 'cradle of life'

Sep 02, 2011
Credit: Modern day pumice raft on Santorini beach.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Floating rafts of volcanic pumice could have played a significant role in the origins of life on Earth, scientists from Oxford University and the University of Western Australia have suggested.

The researchers, writing in the September issue of the journal Astrobiology, argue that pumice has a unique set of properties which would have made it an ideal habitat for the earliest organisms that emerged on Earth over 3.5 billion years ago.

"Not only does pumice float as rafts but it has the highest surface-area-to-volume ratio of any type of rock, is exposed to a variety of conditions, and has the remarkable ability to adsorb metals, and as well as hosting organic catalysts, such as zeolites,’ said Professor Martin Brasier of Oxford University’s Department of Earth Sciences who led the work with David Wacey of the University of Western Australia. ‘Taken together these properties suggest that it could have made an ideal ‘floating laboratory’ for the development of the earliest micro-organisms."

The researchers believe that pumice’s unique lifecycle – in which it erupts from a volcano, then floats in rafts along the water’s surface before entering the tidal zone, and then beaching for long periods close to shore – would have presented many opportunities for to develop.

"During its lifecycle pumice is potentially exposed to, among other things, lightning associated with volcanic eruptions, oily hydrocarbons and metals produced by hydrothermal vents, and ultraviolet light from the Sun as it floats on water,’ said Professor Brasier. ‘All these conditions have the potential to host, or even generate, the kind of chemical processes that we think created the first living cells."

"We know that life was thriving between the pores of beach sand grains some 3,400 million years ago,’ said David Wacey of the University of Western Australia, referring to the team’s recent work in Nature Geoscience. "What we are saying here is that certain kinds of beach might have provided a cradle for life."

The team say that their hypothesis can be tested by examining the early fossil record for evidence of pumice rafts, and conducting laboratory experiments on pumice rocks to see if they can create new catalysts and compounds when exposed to cycles of heat and ultraviolet radiation.

The article, entitled ‘Pumice as a Remarkable Substrate for the Origin of Life’, is published in the September issue of Astrobiology.

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User comments : 12

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Eric_Zipp
1.3 / 5 (16) Sep 02, 2011
Another foolish God denier. I doesn't take a degree to know your theory isn't possible. All that is apparent is that the author of this article finds it necessary to grasp at straws to try to free himself from some deep hidden guilt. If God is then he is responsible for his behaviors. The oily hydrocarbons that come from the hydrothermal vents are organic in nature. For someone who is trying to write as an authoritative biologist it seems that you would know this. So for this ridiculous pumice raft theory to float you need to account for how there were already life forms in existence to cause the listed circumstances.
thales
5 / 5 (4) Sep 02, 2011
Another foolish God denier. I doesn't take a degree to know your theory isn't possible. All that is apparent is that the author of this article finds it necessary to grasp at straws to try to free himself from some deep hidden guilt. If God is then he is responsible for his behaviors. The oily hydrocarbons that come from the hydrothermal vents are organic in nature. For someone who is trying to write as an authoritative biologist it seems that you would know this. So for this ridiculous pumice raft theory to float you need to account for how there were already life forms in existence to cause the listed circumstances.


So arrogant. So, so arrogant.
Callippo
5 / 5 (2) Sep 02, 2011
IMO the life originated at places of highest complexity, which the physical system can provide and the coastal areas (the interface of all three phases together) are good test bead for spontaneous life evolution.

Some liposomes can behave like walking droplets. We can imagine, such a droplets precipitated from waves of ancient lakes at places, where organic compounds were concentrated by wind and solar radiation and they were thrown at coast surface, covered by various surfactants. The droplets are attracted to them, so they started to climb around coast, collecting these materials in their cells. The most successful droplets become so large by such way, they fragmented into smaller ones under impact of next breaker wave, and whole process has repeated many times. During this the less successful ("low fitness") droplets disappeared gradually on behalf of those better ones, which have collected the proper surfactants into their liposome bodies.
Martian
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 02, 2011
Everyone know that life originated on Mars and then came to Earth on meteorites.
Adam
3 / 5 (2) Sep 02, 2011
Another foolish God denier. I doesn't take a degree to know your theory isn't possible. All that is apparent is that the author of this article finds it necessary to grasp at straws to try to free himself from some deep hidden guilt. If God is then he is responsible for his behaviors. The oily hydrocarbons that come from the hydrothermal vents are organic in nature. For someone who is trying to write as an authoritative biologist it seems that you would know this. So for this ridiculous pumice raft theory to float you need to account for how there were already life forms in existence to cause the listed circumstances.


Scripture says God crafted you inside your Mother's womb, yet I don't see invasive procedures by a Cosmic Potter occurring during that particular everyday work of God, so why should life's origin be any less natural and any less the work of God's hands? Unbiblical distinctions between kinds of God's work push Him even further out of sight in the world.
martinwolf
1 / 5 (1) Sep 02, 2011
adam...a voice of reason...science is mans attempt to understand base
d on observation,then theorizing then testing the theory,,no slights at the creator just a yearning to understand all that is...was and expect will be...
frajo
5 / 5 (2) Sep 03, 2011
Eric_Zipp is the reincarnation of the vanished kevinrts.
tkjtkj
5 / 5 (4) Sep 03, 2011
Another foolish God denier. I doesn't take a degree to know your theory isn't possible.


Please take your stupid religiosity elsewhere .. Or is the fact that you attend science sessions a consequence of your underlying 'fear' that there is no god ??... They have a parallel thing in social sciences: eg: homophobia .. You issue might be labeled 'fear of godlessness' , or atheistophobia . Go pedal your imaginings elsewhere. The authors' observations are very interesting and supported by many scientific observations. Yours are pathetic conjectures and not supported by a single one!

frajo
4 / 5 (1) Sep 03, 2011
Eric_Zipp is the reincarnation of the vanished kevinrts.

Nonsense. There's no kevinrts; he's named kevinrtrs.
Sorry for any inconvenience.
Isaacsname
not rated yet Sep 03, 2011
Ya, that's why Hydroton kicks major *ss.
Robert_Wells
5 / 5 (2) Sep 03, 2011
Eric_Zipp is the reincarnation of the vanished kevinrts.

Nonsense. There's no kevinrts; he's named kevinrtrs.
Sorry for any inconvenience.


i was going to say "shhh he will hear you and be trolling in no time. its been nice not having him around."

but then i checked his activity and he posted yesterday on that 'wooly rhino' article talking about how the rhino isn't 3.x million years old its closer to 6k, his usual BS.
Robert_Wells
5 / 5 (3) Sep 03, 2011
however, it was nice having a 7 day break from him. im sure his neighbors would pay for 7 days of not having to talk to him.

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