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The Development Of Life


The Development Of Life
Of all the aspects of Earth’s development, the origins of life are perhaps the most complex and controversial. That said, there’s one thing upon which the scientific community as a whole agrees: that according to today’s evidence, the first life on Earth would have been almost inconceivably small-scale.

There are two main schools of thought for the trigger of life: an RNA-first approach and a metabolism-first approach. The RNA-first hypothesis states that life began with selfreplicating ribonucleic acid (RNA) molecules, while the metabolism-first approach believes it all began with an ordered sequence of chemical reactions, iea chemical network.
Ribozymes are RNA molecules that are capable of both triggering their own replication and also the construction of proteins – the main building blocks and working molecules in cells. As such, ribozymes seem good candidates for the starting point of all life. RNA is made up of nucleotides, which are biological molecules composed of a nucleobase (a nitrogen compound), five-carbon sugar and phosphate groups (salts). The presence of these chemicals and their fusion is the base for the RNA-world theory, with RNA capable of acting as a less stable version of DNA.
This theory begs two questions: one, were these chemicals present in early Earth and, two, how were they first fused? Until recently, while some success has been achieved in-vitro showing that activated ribonucleotides can polymerise (join) to form RNA, the key issue in replicating this formation was showing how ribonucleotides could form from their constituent parts (ie ribose and nucleobases).
Interestingly in a recent experiment reported in Nature, a team showed that pyrimidine ribonucleobases can be formed in a process that bypasses the fusion of ribose and nucleobases, passing instead through a series of other processes that rely on the presence of other compounds, such as cyanoacetylene and glycolaldehyde – which are believed to have been present during Earth’s early formation. In contrast, the metabolism-first theory suggests that  the earliest form of life on Earth developed from the creation of a composite-structured organism  on iron-sulphide minerals common around hydrothermal vents.
The theory goes that under the high pressure and temperatures experienced at these deep-sea geysers, the chemical coupling of iron salt and hydrogen sulphide produced a composite structure with a mineral base and a metallic centre (such as iron or zinc).
The presence of this metal, it is theorised, triggered the conversion of inorganic carbon into organic compounds and kick-started constructive metabolism (forming new molecules from a series of simpler units). This process became self-sustaining by the generation of a sulphur-dependent metabolic cycle. Over time the cycle expanded and became more efficient, while simultaneously producing ever-more complex compounds, pathways and reaction triggers.
As such, the metabolism-first approach describes a system in which no cellular components are necessary to form life; instead, it started with a compound such as pyrite – a mineral which was abundant in early Earth’s oceans. When considering that the oceans during the Hadean and early-Archean eons were extremely acidic – and that the planet’s overall temperature was still very high – a model similar to the iron-sulphur world type is plausible, if not as popular as the RNA theory.
There are other scientific theories explaining the origins of life – for example, some think organic molecules were deposited on Earth via a comet or asteroid – but all return to the notion that early life was tiny. It’s also accepted that life undertook a period of fierce evolution in order to adapt to the ever-changing Earth. But without the right initial conditions, we might never have evolved to call this planet home.

The Development Of Life