Oxford scientists have made significant progress in understanding how life began on Earth, after discovering that iron is an essential element not only here but on other planets as well.
Researchers have revealed that iron is an essential nutrient for the growth and prosperity of all living things on earth. By mass alone, iron (Fe) is the most abundant chemical element on the planet and lags behind oxygen (O). It is the fourth most common element in the Earth’s crust and forms the bulk of the planet’s inner and outer center.
The amount of iron in the Earth’s mantle – a layer of silicate rock between the Earth’s crust and outer center – is believed to have been “determined” by conditions that formed about 4.5 billion years ago.
According to the Oxford group, it had “significant implications for how life evolved” on Earth.
Now researchers say they have discovered a process that helped iron shape the evolution of complex life forms.
The findings, published in the journal PNAS, could help scientists better understand the potential for extraterrestrial life on other rocks.
“The initial amount of iron in the Earth’s rocks is determined by planetary conditions, during which the Earth’s mineral core separates from the crust,” said John Wade, associate professor of planetary materials at the University of Oxford’s Department of Earth Sciences.
According to researchers, the iron conditions on Earth will initially help the planet retain its surface water – an essential building block for life.
Iron can also be dissolved in seawater, meaning that simple life is readily available for “evolution.”
But it turned out, about 2.4 billion years ago, when the so-called Great Oxidation Event, the oxygen levels on the planet began to rise dramatically.
Large amounts of oxygen reacted with the iron to make it less soluble, releasing the gigatons element from the ocean.
However, life is still finding its way, according to research associate professor Hal Drexmith, an iron biologist at the MRC Weather Institute for Molecular Medicine at Oxford University.
He said, “Life needs to find new ways to get the iron it needs. For example, infection, coexistence and multicellularity are behaviors that help to capture and use these rare and vital nutrients more efficiently. Early life is becoming more complex than ever before. On the way. ”
According to researchers, the need for iron as a driver for the subsequent evolution of organisms capable of attracting iron when resources are scarce may be a very rare process.
Even worse, it could turn out to be completely random events, and this could have an impact on the possibility of complex life on other planets.
Professor Traxmith said: “It is unknown at this time what he meant by intelligent life in the universe. We need to find a new way, such time changes on the planetary scale may be rare or random, meaning the probability of intelligent life being even lower. “
However, knowing how much iron is in the planet’s crust can help scientists search for extraterrestrials and eliminate those capable of supporting life.
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