How Did Life On Earth Begin? University Of Auckland Scientist Will Test A Novel Theory
Nearly four billion years ago, Earth was wildly volcanic with an orange sky, green seas, and meteorites crashing down with frequency. How did life emerge in this forbidding environment?
Back in 1871, Charles Darwin imagined a “warm little pond” of chemicals as the starting point, or what became known as a “primordial soup.”
Over the next 150 years, breakthroughs in genetics allowed scientists to develop more detailed theories.
The most widely-accepted theory, called “RNA world,” is that molecules of RNA – DNA’s lesser-known cousin, now slightly better known because of mRNA Covid-19 vaccines – self-replicated in the soup, kick-starting life on earth. More of the building blocks of life such as proteins and DNA came later.
Dr Peter Wills, of the Faculty of Science at the University of Auckland, doesn’t buy it.
He and collaborator Professor Charlie Carter, an origin-of-life scientist from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in the US, have already spent years pursuing their alternative theory.
The pair believe that RNA was likely unable to replicate itself, and a better bet is that RNA and peptides – chains of amino acids that are essentially smaller and simpler versions of proteins – evolved together to create the first genetic code.