Seawater might have supplied the phosphorus required for emerging life.
Researchers from the Universities of Cambridge and Cape Town may have found a solution to the mystery of how phosphorus came to be an essential component of life on Earth by recreating prehistoric seawater containing the element in a laboratory.
Their findings, which were published in the journal Nature Communications, suggest that seawater may be the missing source of phosphate, suggesting that it could have been present in sufficient quantities to support life without the need for particular environmental conditions.
Phosphate is a crucial component of DNA and RNA, which are the building blocks of life, although it is one of the least common elements in the universe relative to its biological significance. Phosphate is also relatively inaccessible in its mineral form – it can be difficult to dissolve in water so that life can utilize it.
Scientists have long suspected that phosphorus became part of biology early on, but they have only recently begun to recognize the role of phosphate in directing the synthesis of molecules required by life on Earth, “Experiments show it makes amazing things happen – chemists can synthesize crucial biomolecules if there is a lot of phosphate in solution,” said Tosca, Professor of Mineralogy & Petrology at Cambridge’s Department of Earth Sciences.
However, there has been debate over the precise circumstances required to create phosphate. According to some research, phosphate should actually be even less accessible to life when iron is plentiful. However, this is disputed since the early Earth’s atmosphere was oxygen-poor and iron would have been widespread.
They used geochemical modeling to simulate the early Earth’s conditions in order to understand how life came to rely on phosphate and the kind of environment that this element would have evolved in.
The article goes on in this vein, but one wonders if it got written just for the sake of the overstated title.
For example, “chemists can synthesize crucial biomolecules…” – but how much intelligent intervention is required by the trained chemists to reach their desired goal?
Also, “the early Earth’s atmosphere was oxygen-poor and iron would have been widespread.” – Does this make any sense at all?
Again, why do intelligent scientists fall into the assumption that finding a chemical ingredient in the environment that is necessary for life equates with the ability of natural processes to form all the biomolecules necessary for life, and without guidance to arrange these into coordinated functionality in a microscopic locality so that the outcome is a living cell? So many steps in this imagined process are mediated against by the known laws of physics, that to suggest it happened naturally is to depart from scientific credibility.
Full article at SciTech Daily.