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Perspective

The Grayness of the Origin of Life

1
Department of Geosciences, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA
2
Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA
3
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA
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NASA Postdoctoral Program, USRA, Columbia, MD 20146, USA
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Department of Physics, Catholic University of America, Washington, DC 20064, USA
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Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA
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Department of Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics, Umeå University, 90187 Umeå, Sweden
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Icelab, Umeå University, 90187 Umeå, Sweden
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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, CT 06050, USA
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Department of Earth Sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5S 3B1, Canada
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Department of Biology, Georgetown University, Washington, DC 20057, USA
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Department of Molecular Biosciences, College of Natural Sciences, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA
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Center for Systems and Synthetic Biology, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA
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Department of Computer Science, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87108, USA
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Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
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Blue Marble Space Institute of Science, Seattle, WA 98104, USA
17
Science, Technology and International Affairs Program, Georgetown University, Washington, DC 20057, USA
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to the work.
Academic Editors: David Deamer and Francois Raulin
Life 2021, 11(6), 498; https://doi.org/10.3390/life11060498
Received: 22 April 2021 / Revised: 22 May 2021 / Accepted: 26 May 2021 / Published: 29 May 2021
(This article belongs to the Section Origin of Life)
In the search for life beyond Earth, distinguishing the living from the non-living is paramount. However, this distinction is often elusive, as the origin of life is likely a stepwise evolutionary process, not a singular event. Regardless of the favored origin of life model, an inherent “grayness” blurs the theorized threshold defining life. Here, we explore the ambiguities between the biotic and the abiotic at the origin of life. The role of grayness extends into later transitions as well. By recognizing the limitations posed by grayness, life detection researchers will be better able to develop methods sensitive to prebiotic chemical systems and life with alternative biochemistries. View Full-Text
Keywords: origin of life; prebiotic evolution; meteoritic organics; pre-RNAs; metalloenzymes; thioesters; lipids; evolutionary transitions; agnostic biosignatures origin of life; prebiotic evolution; meteoritic organics; pre-RNAs; metalloenzymes; thioesters; lipids; evolutionary transitions; agnostic biosignatures
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MDPI and ACS Style

Smith, H.H.; Hyde, A.S.; Simkus, D.N.; Libby, E.; Maurer, S.E.; Graham, H.V.; Kempes, C.P.; Sherwood Lollar, B.; Chou, L.; Ellington, A.D.; Fricke, G.M.; Girguis, P.R.; Grefenstette, N.M.; Pozarycki, C.I.; House, C.H.; Johnson, S.S. The Grayness of the Origin of Life. Life 2021, 11, 498. https://doi.org/10.3390/life11060498

AMA Style

Smith HH, Hyde AS, Simkus DN, Libby E, Maurer SE, Graham HV, Kempes CP, Sherwood Lollar B, Chou L, Ellington AD, Fricke GM, Girguis PR, Grefenstette NM, Pozarycki CI, House CH, Johnson SS. The Grayness of the Origin of Life. Life. 2021; 11(6):498. https://doi.org/10.3390/life11060498

Chicago/Turabian Style

Smith, Hillary H.; Hyde, Andrew S.; Simkus, Danielle N.; Libby, Eric; Maurer, Sarah E.; Graham, Heather V.; Kempes, Christopher P.; Sherwood Lollar, Barbara; Chou, Luoth; Ellington, Andrew D.; Fricke, G. M.; Girguis, Peter R.; Grefenstette, Natalie M.; Pozarycki, Chad I.; House, Christopher H.; Johnson, Sarah S. 2021. "The Grayness of the Origin of Life" Life 11, no. 6: 498. https://doi.org/10.3390/life11060498

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