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

Dec 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: Three Idaho quakes rattle residents from Washington to Montana

Related Stories

The solar system and beyond is awash in water

Apr 08, 2015

As NASA missions explore our solar system and search for new worlds, they are finding water in surprising places. Water is but one piece of our search for habitable planets and life beyond Earth, yet it links ...

OSIRIS-REx mission passes critical milestone

Apr 02, 2015

NASA's groundbreaking science mission to retrieve a sample from an ancient space rock has moved closer to fruition. The Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) ...

NASA's Curiosity eyes prominent mineral veins on Mars

Apr 02, 2015

Two-tone mineral veins at a site NASA's Curiosity rover has reached by climbing a layered Martian mountain offer clues about multiple episodes of fluid movement. These episodes occurred later than the wet ...

Recommended for you

Image: Sentinel-1A satellite images Florida

17 hours ago

The peninsula sits between the Gulf of Mexico to the west, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. The large body of water at the top of the image is the freshwater Lake Okeechobee. Covering about 1900 sq km, ...

User comments : 0

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.