Irish scientists might be on the verge of a breakthrough in understanding where life on Earth first began.
A team of geochemists from the School of Natural Sciences at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) believe that conditions that were capable of supporting life were created after large meteorites and comets hurtled into the oceans.
The impact of the collision would have heated up the rock to the extent that it would interact with the water to allow synthesis of complex organic molecules.
As the rock covered the crater it would have created a microhabitat which would have helped these organisms to flourish.
The team have built on the work and ideas of several renowned scientists who believe that the building blocks of life such as complex organic molecules, such as glycine, β-alanine, γ-amino-n-butyric acid, and water arrived on Earth from comets and meteorites.
It is known that the planet was bombarded with comets in the early stages of its development. The energy that came from the impact of the rocks would have also been essential for synthesis.
The team’s work take this knowledge to the next step and hypothesises that the craters caused by the impact would have been the perfect environment for the first living organisms to flourish.
They have published a paper in the Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta journal that further explains their proposal.
First author Edel O’Sullivan said: “Previous studies investigating the origin of life have focused on synthesis in hydrothermal environments. Today these are found at mid-ocean ridges – hallmark features of plate tectonics, which likely did not exist on the early Earth.
“By contrast, the findings of this new study suggest that extensive hydrothermal systems operated in an enclosed impact crater at Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.”