Life May Have Begun 4.1 Billion Years Ago on an Infant Earth

Oct 28, 2015

by Charles Q. Choi

Life may have emerged on Earth 4.1 billion years ago, much earlier than scientists had thought, and relatively soon after the planet formed, researchers say.

Previous research suggested life may have arisen on Earth 3.83 billion years ago. The new findings suggest life started 270 million years earlier, and only about 440 million years after Earth formedabout 4.54 billion years ago.

If life on Earth did spring up relatively quickly, that suggests life could be abundant in the universe, scientists added.

“The faster life arises on Earth, the more varied and possibly extreme are the conditions in which it can do so elsewhere and be sustained,” study co-author Mark Harrison, a geochemist at the University of California, Los Angeles, told Live Science. [7 Wild Theories for the Origin of Life on Earth]


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4 comments on “Life May Have Begun 4.1 Billion Years Ago on an Infant Earth

  • Increasingly we are finding that simple life is easy. The extreme conditions at this early time may have accelerated the number of chances for autocatalytic chemistry. Its the transition to complex cells (eukaryotes) from simple that seems the tough problem, taking one to two billion years to appear.

    This evidence though is pretty marginal to call anything with any confidence.

    Life may be everywhere but its likely to be slimemoulds.



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  • Life may have emerged on Earth 4.1 billion years ago, much earlier than scientists had thought, and relatively soon after the planet formed, researchers say.

    Because of the tectonic recycling of the Earth’s crust, rocks this ancient are very rare and hard to find, so it is perhaps unsurprising that new discoveries keep pushing dates back to earlier times.



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  • @OP – Previous research suggested life may have arisen on Earth 3.83 billion years ago. The new findings suggest life started 270 million years earlier, and only about 440 million years after Earth formed about 4.54 billion years ago.

    Those dates are interesting, because of the dating of the Late Heavy Bombardment.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Late_Heavy_Bombardment
    .The Late Heavy Bombardment (abbreviated LHB and also known as the lunar cataclysm) is a hypothetical event thought to have occurred approximately 4.1 to 3.8 billion years (Ga) ago,[1] corresponding to the Neohadean and Eoarchean eras on Earth. During this interval, a disproportionately large number of asteroids apparently collided with the early terrestrial planets in the inner Solar System, including Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.[2] The LHB happened after the Earth and other rocky planets had formed and accreted most of their mass, but still quite early in Earth’s history.

    Evidence for the LHB derives from lunar samples brought back by the Apollo astronauts. Isotopic dating of Moon rocks implies that most impact melts occurred in a rather narrow interval of time.

    The OP appears to suggest that life may have pre-dated the Late Heavy Bombardment.



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  • All these guesses are interesting, but let’s not get too excited — we actually know precious little. Equally, while it may take a billion years to get around to a development in the evolution of life, that development could happen at any point in that period, even 5 minutes after the preceding one



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