Space Worms – Are Hydrothermal Vents The Origin of Life?

Giant carbonate spires found at the Lost City hydrothermal vent site.  Photo from  Kelley, University of Washington, IFE, URI-IAO, NOAA

Giant carbonate spires found at the Lost City hydrothermal vent site. Photo from Kelley, University of Washington, IFE, URI-IAO, NOAA

Research by scientists in 2008, studying the Lost City hydrothermal vent sites in the Atlantic found evidence to support the theory that life on earth began at hydrothermal vents.  The Lost City hydrothermal vent sites are made up of white smokers.  In comparison to black smokers, white smokers are made up of carbonate and produce much larger amounts of hydrogen and methane.

The scientists from Woods Whole Oceanographic Institute found that high levels of hydrocarbons are produced at Lost City vents.  Hydrocarbons are considered to be the very first stage of life as they are vital for cell growth.  Hydrocarbons are formed at sites like the Lost City when seawater reacts with carbon dioxide stored in the earth’s mantle rock.  Analysis of venting fluid and rocks of the white smokers at the Lost City vents identified that carbon dioxide from the atmosphere did not form the deep water hydrocarbons, nor did the hydrocarbons come from any other biological ecosystem.

This evidence of non biological hydrocarbons created at sites such as the Lost City suggests that these were first building blocks in the origin of life on earth.  With this work in mind it is also possible to consider that fact that similar conditions on other planets may create life, as it may well have done on Earth.

Read the full article here.