Building blocks of life came from deep Earth

Aug 07, 2012 by Tom Marshall
Building blocks of life came from deep Earth

The rise of the first complex life depended on vital metals brought up to the Earth's surface from far below in vast granite deposits, a new study argues.

Metals like copper, zinc and are essential ingredients for certain enzymes and proteins. These are needed for life forms with a complex , known as eukaryotes, to evolve. Without these metals the history of life could have been very different; made of many cells could have taken hundreds of millions more years to develop, if they appeared at all.

The new study's authors realised that eukaryotes started appearing soon after a period of unusual geological activity, and wonder if it could have provided the raw materials they needed.

"Biologists have been saying for a long time that these three metals are essential for complex life to develop," says Professor John Parnell, a geologist at the University of Aberdeen and lead author of the paper, which appears in Geology. "And have been aware that there was a period of unusual geological activity around the same time that would have brought an extraordinary amount of these metals to the surface. But I think we're the first to put the two together and suggest that the geological changes actually enabled the biological advances."

In particular, eukaryotic life is needed for to emerge. Until living things have both , is impossible; allows the mixing of genes from both parents, so that a population can contain much more variation for natural selection to work on. Before sexual reproduction, variations in populations of living things could stem only from occasional , so evolution moved much more slowly.

The explosion of new life took place during a period known as the Mesoproterozoic, around 1.6 billion years ago. This followed the birth of a new supercontinent known as Nuna or Columbia around 1.9 billion years ago, which triggered major changes in the activity of the Earth's mantle beneath.

Because of the thicker crust below the , heat flow at the base of the crust was unusually high, leading to rising magma plumes that brought up metals that had previously been locked deeper in the Earth. After emerging through volcanic activity, this material cooled into vast new fields of granite, with deposits of metal sulphides disseminated throughout. As weathering slowly uncovered these, they turned to sulphates and were washed into rivers, lakes and shallow coastal waters, where they became available for use by living things. With these nutrients in place, the stage was set for the appearance of eukaryotes.

"Metals do come to the surface through normal volcanic processes, but we think this episode of high heat flow greatly accelerated the process. So it's possible that eukaryotes would still have developed if this hadn't happened, but it might have taken a lot longer," says Parnell.

Until recently, scientists thought these metals came instead from changes in the chemistry of the oceans. The discovery is part of a wider move towards theories that complex life got its start on land or in shallow waters rather than the deep ocean, as previously believed.

"I suspect that this increases the focus on the terrestrial origins of eukaryotes, as opposed to the deep marine ones," Parnell comments. "The onus is now on the palaeobiologists to go out and see what traces of early life they can find in the terrestrial record."

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HannesAlfven
1 / 5 (4) Aug 07, 2012
From Dwardu Cardona's book, Flare Star (pages 419 - 425) ...

"The conception that the mountains did not originally belong to earth's form is prevalent in legend ..." (L Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, Vol I, 1968, p18)

From another Jewish source: "The earth, which originally consisted of a level surface, became mountainous as a punishment for having received Abel's blood." (Ibid, Vol V, p142)

From the Chinese Sing-Li-Ta-Tsiuen-Chou: "In a general convulsion of nature, the sea is carried out of its bed, mountains spring out of the ground, rivers change their courses, human beings and everything are ruined, and the ancient traces effaced." (G Schlegel, Uranographie Chinoise, 1875, p740)

The Kayan of Borneo believed that valleys were hollowed out by a "crab", but this was no ordinary crab because it had been one that fell from the sky. (GH Luquet, "Oceanic Mythology," New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology (London 1972), p466.
HannesAlfven
1 / 5 (4) Aug 07, 2012
More ...

Dwardu writes: "Natives in the north-west of the same country also tell how the two "birds" responsible for Creation ended up with an Earth that was larger than the sky. In order to adjust for this miscalculation, they squished the Earth, 'and this caused the foldings which made mountains and valleys.'" (Ibid)

"Eskimos of the Bering Strait also tell that 'in the days of the first people on the earth plain, there were no mountains far or near.'" (R Van Over, Sun Songs: Creation Myths From Around the World (NY, 1980), p76)

North American Indians of Washington state: " 'When the world was very young, the land was flat where the Cascades now rise.' Then, as is often usual with these reminiscences, as a punishment for some committed offense, the Great Spirit 'leaned down from heaven and scooped up a great mass of the earth, and with it fashioned the Cascades; Ocean flowed into the hole whence the material had been removed, making Puget Sound.' " (Ibid, p53)
antialias_physorg
3.5 / 5 (4) Aug 07, 2012
But I think we're the first to put the two together and suggest that the geological changes actually enabled the biological advances.

Another idea would be that biologicals had already originated deep underground an that these upheavals gave them something to live off of on the surface.

Bacteria have been found miles underground in rock. There are bacteria that live off of radioactivity. And accoprding to this article from the National Science Foundation it could well be that life moved upwards - not downwards.
http://www.nsf.go...ters.jsp

...which would have implications for the search for life elsewhere. Maybe looking on the surface (or even in hidden oceans as on Europa or IO) may not be the be the most promising spots.
HannesAlfven
1 / 5 (3) Aug 07, 2012
From http://www.thunde...enly.htm

"It would be good to find some maverick geologist who can run an electric current through a pile of sand and turn it into granite and basalt, especially without melting it ... No orthodox geologist will admit this; his career would be terminated. But the history of ideas gives no concern to the conceits of men and their careers."

From wikipedia: "The ascent and emplacement of large volumes of granite within the upper continental crust is a source of much debate amongst geologists. There is a lack of field evidence for any proposed mechanisms ..."

From http://www.thunde...ers2.htm

"A fulgamite, or lightning blister, develops when an electric discharge pulls charged material from the surrounding area, incidentally dragging the neutral matter with it. A large enough electric arc will act like an enormous plasma tornado, with an extremely low pressure region ..."
HannesAlfven
1 / 5 (3) Aug 07, 2012
Continued ...

"in the center enclosed by powerful electromagnetic fields. It is this central vortex that can exert forces that crush and melt dust and other substances until they become stone."

--

It seems that there exists a separate "catastrophist" line of investigation for the formation of granite and mountains which is not thought to generally exist amongst mainstream theorists. Is it that there is no information within the ancient creation stories? Or, is it that those stories depict plasma-based catastrophic events which natives could only anthropomorphize in order to explain? One reasonable interpretation of these stories is that humans observed the rise of mountains.

Did we take a wrong turn at Velikovsky street?
HannesAlfven
1 / 5 (2) Aug 07, 2012
A very separate -- yet obviously related -- claim of a human skull embedded within stone ...

http://www.edconrad.com

Also, E.R. Milton describes his examination of a petrified tree trunk in Alberta (Canada) [The Lately Tortured Earth, Ch.26:Fossil Deposits - Part 6 Biospherics]:

[quote]

The piece... was pure clear silica inside, it was coated with a rougher opaque crust of partially fused sand. The tree whose stump was petrified was alive five years ago! After the tree was cut down to accommodate the right of way for a new power transmission line, an accidental break allowed the live high-voltage wire to contact several tree stumps still in the ground. The power was cut off within hours of the break. All of the tree roots which contacted the broken wire were fossilized... Obviously, electricity can metamorphose matter quickly.

[end quote]
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
not rated yet Aug 07, 2012
This is the press release announcing the print of an earlier accepted paper doing the rounds. I noted then that there is little correlation between the land availability of these metals and the deep and resolved phylogenetic record of protein fold families.

Cu & Mo stands for ~ 5 % of today's transition metal cellular use, and half of that use was already established 2.5 billion years ago, when the atmosphere oxygenated and the conditions for cellular metabolism drastically changed.

Zn stands for ~ 20 % of use, which is a relative _decrease_. It was more used around the oxygenation event. But like Mn especially it has decreased as the modern set of transition metals started to become used. ["Rapid early innovation during an Archaean genetic expansion", David et al, Nature 2010]

The first complex multicellulars of record by far are ocean sponges, ~ 150 - 200 million years before other records (~ 760 Ga bp). Land (animal) records starts ~ 200 million years after that (~ 400 Ga bp).
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
5 / 5 (2) Aug 07, 2012
As for creationists, they shouldn't comment on science, it is hilarious. And this time very nutty, looks like someone forgot their medicines.
HannesAlfven
1 / 5 (2) Aug 07, 2012
Re: "As for creationists"

Electrical cosmology is not creationism. Papers have been published on the subjects of plasma-based cosmologies in IEEE's Transactions on Plasma Science for more than half a century now. It might help to remind people that IEEE is the world's largest scientific institution.

Many people of the scientific community seem to routinely confuse religion with mythology. Here's a quick primer: Mythology pre-dates religion by THOUSANDS of years. The religions of the world all derive from the mythological archetypes. A large number of those archetypes can be observed to span THE ENTIRE GLOBE. The similarities are enigmatic, and deserve more than a prejudiced dismissal. The contention of David Talbott, Wal Thornhill and Dwardu Cardona is that the reason that the stories of mythology are so enigmatic to us is that they refer to plasmas (Reminder: 99% of what we see with our telescopes is matter in the plasma state).
HannesAlfven
1 / 5 (2) Aug 07, 2012
One of the discoveries that has been made with our modern telescope technology is that space is filled with highly energetic activity. When matter reaches a certain temperature, it enters into the plasma state (the ions and electrons separate). The notion that we can observe high-intensity discharges in space, but that they would never occur here on Earth, is the modern-day equivalent of anthropocentrism.

Anthony Peratt, a former adviser to the department of Energy and z-machine plasma physicist, has correlated 85 categories of "archaic" petroglyphs to high-intensity plasma discharges ...

http://www.scribd...ntiquity

Another article on the same topic ...

http://penn.museu...ratt.pdf
HannesAlfven
1 / 5 (2) Aug 07, 2012
Most scientists today like to imagine that they are still locked in a war with creationists. Perhaps some still are.

But, the much larger threat to conventional science will come from the widespread ignorance that has been cultivated on the subject of plasma physics. This will be the battle of the 21st century. The YouTube channel on this subject has already surpassed 1 million views ...

http://www.youtub...lts_main

It's very possible that BOTH the creationists and conventional theorists are wrong. After all, astrophysicists have deployed the universe's weakest force as an explanation for what they are seeing in space. The electric force is known to be 10^36 times stronger than the gravitational.

In the electrical cosmology view, "creation stories" are not the birth of the universe. They are simply mankind's stories about the last global catastrophe, and the event's morphologies appear inscribed in petroglyphs across the world.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
not rated yet Aug 08, 2012
@ natello:

Good point, sex likely predated multicellular eukaryotes, as it happens in independent clades such as plants and animals.

The paper I refer to uses protein folds to keep track of transition metal use, apparently there are some folds that could have handled the metals earlier. It uses genomes from all 3 domains, so it is agnostic on specialized use.

@ HannesAlfven:

"Electrical cosmology is not creationism."

My mistake, I noted the religious references, and since most religions are creationist I assumed the off topic goobledygook was rooted there.

It is by the way a mere semantic question whether any dualist religion like EU (invoking mechanisms not observed in nature) is not having a creationist mechanism for the supernatural pseudoscience stuff. It is all magic, so it is all anthropic "creative"/creating stuff out of nothing, whether or not there is a presumed external agency involved.