New Results in the Quest for the Origin of Life

Life as we know it nowadays it needs phosphorus. It’s one of the six major chemical parts of life, and it develops the backbone of RNA and DNA molecules. Also, it works as the most significant currency for energy in all cells and anchors the lipids that divide cells from their enclosing environment.

Jonatan Toner, a research assistant professor of Earth and space sciences, stated: “For 50 years, what’s called ‘the phosphate problem’ has plagued studies on the origin of life.”

The issue is that the chemical reactions that realize the formating blocks of living things require a lot of phosphorus, but such an element is scarce. Recent UW research, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, identifies a way to that issue in specific categories of lakes.

New Results in the Quest for the Origin of Life

The research centers on carbonate-rich lakes, which develop in dry places within depressions that funnel water draining from the enclosing landscape. Due to high evaporation levels, the lake waters gather into alkaline and salty, or high-pH, liquids.

So, such lakes, dubbed soda lakes or alkaline, are present on all continents. The researchers first examined the phosphorus calculations in exiting carbonate-rich lakes, such as Lake Magadi in Kenya, or Mono Lake in California.

While the accurate mass depends on where the fragments were taken and in which the year, the researchers identified those carbonate-rich lakes consist of up to 50,000 times phosphorus rates discovered in seawater or rivers. Moreover, such mass indicates the presence of some simple, natural process that gathers phosphorus in those lakes.

Currently, the carbonate-rich lakes are biologically abundant and support life varying from microbes to Lake Magadi’s well-known flocks of flamingoes. Those living animals harm lake chemistry. So researchers perform lab tests with bottles of carbonate-abundant water at various chemical compositions to find out how the lakes gather phosphorus, and how high the element mass could get in a lifeless place.

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