Special Issue "Conditions on the Early Earth >3.5Gy: Limitations for the Sources/Stability of Prebiotic Compounds and the Prebiotic/Biotic Transition"

A special issue of Life (ISSN 2075-1729). This special issue belongs to the section "Chemistry".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 June 2019

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Jeffrey Bada

Distinguished Research Professor of Marine Chemistry, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0212, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: primitive Earth; prebiotic amino acids; cosmogeochemistry; origin of life chemistry; homochirality

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Our understanding of the possible environments on early Earth (and elsewhere) that might have been associated with prebiotic chemistry and the transition to primitive biotic chemistry are ambiguous. The use of the term “plausible geochemical conditions” is often used in papers dealing with various aspects of prebiotic chemistry and its increase in complexity to primitive biotic chemistry. However, the meaning of the term is poorly constrained and can mean different things to various researchers. One example is “the warm little pond” concept. For “warm little ponds” to have existed on the early Earth exposed land areas above sea level would have needed to be present. Moreover, they would have needed to be stable enough for simple prebiotic compounds derived from whatever sources to accumulate, interact and produce more complex molecules. If exposed areas above sea level were scarce, short-lived or even nonexistent, were "warm little pond(s)" indeed a plausible environment on the early Earth?

Another central issue is what were the chemical components of any water bodies on the early Earth. Minerals on the early Earth would have been in the reduced form and, as a result any soluble products of mineral weathering, would have also been reduced. As noted by Saito et al. [Inorganica Chim. Acta, 356, 308-318 (2003)], “in an ancient ocean dominated by high fluxes and concentrations of iron, the relative availability of trace metals would have been similar to that of a sulfidic system, Fe>Mn, Ni, Co>>Cd, Zn, Cu as a result of the formation of dissolved sulfide complexes. “How the presence or absence of these dissolved components affected prebiotic syntheses and prebiotic compound stability needs to be addressed.

For this Special Issue, submissions should focus on the following topics concerned with the Earth >3.5 Ga:

  1. Exposed land areas above sea level and their stability
  2. Seawater composition
  3. Fresh water occurrence, amounts and composition
  4. Inventory of Minerals
  5. Could non-aqueous solvents have existed under natural geologic conditions?
  6. Environments favorable for prebiotic synthesis and survival
  7. Extraterrestrial supply of prebiotic compounds
  8. Geochemically compatible scenarios for the prebiotic to biotic transition.

Note: Prebiotic synthesis manuscripts by themselves will not be considered unless they are associated with a realistic, justifiable geochemically compatible scenario.

Prof. Dr. Jeffrey Bada
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Life is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

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Published Papers (1 paper)

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Research

Open AccessArticle Exposed Areas Above Sea Level on Earth >3.5 Gyr Ago: Implications for Prebiotic and Primitive Biotic Chemistry
Received: 22 August 2018 / Revised: 1 November 2018 / Accepted: 1 November 2018 / Published: 4 November 2018
PDF Full-text (5302 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
How life began on Earth is still largely shrouded in mystery. One of the central ideas for various origins of life scenarios is Darwin’s “warm little pond”. In these small bodies of water, simple prebiotic compounds such as amino acids, nucleobases, and so [...] Read more.
How life began on Earth is still largely shrouded in mystery. One of the central ideas for various origins of life scenarios is Darwin’s “warm little pond”. In these small bodies of water, simple prebiotic compounds such as amino acids, nucleobases, and so on, were produced from reagents such as hydrogen cyanide and aldehydes/ketones. These simple prebiotic compounds underwent further reactions, producing more complex molecules. The process of chemical evolution would have produced increasingly complex molecules, eventually yielding a molecule with the properties of information storage and replication prone to random mutations, the hallmark of both the origin of life and evolution. However, there is one problematic issue with this scenario: On the Earth >3.5 Gyr ago there would have likely been no exposed continental crust above sea level. The only land areas that protruded out of the oceans would have been associated with hotspot volcanic islands, such as the Hawaiian island chain today. On these long-lived islands, in association with reduced gas-rich eruptions accompanied by intense volcanic lightning, prebiotic reagents would have been produced that accumulated in warm or cool little ponds and lakes on the volcano flanks. During seasonal wet–dry cycles, molecules with increasing complexity could have been produced. These islands would have thus been the most likely places for chemical evolution and the processes associated with the origin of life. The islands would eventually be eroded away and their chemical evolution products would have been released into the oceans where Darwinian evolution ultimately produced the biochemistry associated with all life on Earth today. Full article
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