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: Arctic sea ice helps remove CO2 from the atmosphere

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Mars Curiosity Rover Arrives at Martian Mountain

Sep 11, 2014

(Phys.org) —NASA's Mars Curiosity rover has reached the Red Planet's Mount Sharp, a Mount-Rainier-size mountain at the center of the vast Gale Crater and the rover mission's long-term prime destination.

Recommended for you

Study links changing winds to warming in Pacific

10 hours ago

A new study released Monday found that warming temperatures in Pacific Ocean waters off the coast of North America over the past century closely followed natural changes in the wind, not increases in greenhouse ...

NASA image: Wildfires in Khabarovsk Krai, Russia

11 hours ago

Most of the fires captured in this image burn in Khabarovsk Krai, a territory occupying the coastline of the Sea of Okhotsk. Dozens of red hotspots, accompanied by plumes of smoke mark active fires. The smoke, ...

NASA sees Tropical Depression Polo winding down

14 hours ago

Infrared satellite imagery from NASA's Aqua satellite showed only a swirl of low-level clouds some deep clouds around Polo's weakening center on Sept. 22 as the storm weakened to a depression.

User comments : 0