Birthplace for Life ?
Saturday, October 29, 2011 12:53:20 PM
This does of course not mean that Greenland was the birthplace of life, as some journalists have interpreted the findings. It indicates however that the environment where life may have its origin probably is to be thought in deep sea mud volcanoes, unlike those that grow to form islands, as these mud volcanoes tend to be much cooler than other volcanoes, including deep sea hydrothermal vents (“black smokers”), sometimes thought (erroneously?) to be ideal birthplaces for life. Any new life that arose would (assumedly) need a consistently warm environment, but one that also didn’t get too hot. Also helpful would be an environment that is alkaline, rather than acidic (unlike hydrothermal vents) - hence the importance of the pH value. Deep sea mud volcanoes thus appear to fit the bill.
The group has published its findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). - Published online before print 17 October 2011, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1108061108.
Deep sea mud volcanoes are rather rare today, but many scientists believe they were more abundant billions of years ago when oceans covered more of the Earth’s surface. And of course, finding an environment conducive to supporting life once it’s been started, still doesn’t explain how it got started in the first place.