Some scientists believe life came to Earth from space, but a new study now claims it began on our planet.
Researchers at the Sorbonne University in Paris found lightning that caused volcanic eruptions in what is now Turkey, Peru and Italy. It emitted extreme levels of nitrogen that sparked the first forms of life.
Nitrogen is essential for supporting life on Earth and when combined with lightning, it reacts with oxygen and produces nitrogen oxide which is then released into the soil where it can create and support life.
Samples taken at the three ancient volcanic sites showed that the large amounts of nitrates were atmospheric, meaning that the elements did not come from the volcano, but were brought to the formation by lightning.
Volcanic lightning created a large amount of nitrogen that likely sparked the first forms of life on Earth.
“If we look at the different possibilities, the most likely thing is that it is a volcanic lightning strike,” said the study’s lead author, Slimane Bekki. new scientist.
“We know that a lot of lightning strikes when a massive volcanic eruption occurs,” he added.
Volcanic lightning usually occurs at the beginning of a volcanic eruption and is found in two places: near the ground in ash clouds and in the plume of volcanic smoke in the second layer of Earth’s atmosphere called the stratosphere.
Bekki and her team visited southern Peru, central Turkey and a volcanic island off the coast of Naples in Italy.
These regions are known to be home to ancient volcanic deposits, and after finding a large amount of nitrates in the soil, they conducted tests that showed that they came from the atmosphere, and not the volcano.
«Indeed, nitrates produced by storms around the world are dispersed on the Earth’s surface, while volcanic deposits are formed locally in a very short period of time and, according to our results, can contain large amounts of N (nitrogen) fixed. , a prerequisite for the development of life,” the scientists wrote in the study, according to the Court News Service.
Volcanic lightning occurs in two places: near the ground in ash clouds and in the plume of volcanic smoke.
Nitrogen is the most common element in Earth’s atmosphere and universe and previous research has shown that, under the right conditions, lightning can form nitrates regardless of whether they were caused by a storm or a volcanic eruption.
However, researchers ruled out that lightning from thunderstorms was the cause of the creation of life due to the small amounts of nitrogen they produce.
“Our findings suggest a unique role that subaerial explosive eruptions may play in providing essential ingredients for the emergence of life on Earth,” the study states.
When the volcanic lightning triggered the formation of nitrogen oxide, it released amino acids into the soil, which is the basis for the creation of ancient microorganisms, according to a separate study. study by researchers from Johns Hopkins and Charles University in the Czech Republic.
“You see the same amino acids in all organisms, from humans to bacteria to archaea, and that’s because all things on Earth are connected through this tree of life that has one origin, one organism which was the ancestor of all living things,” said Stephen Fried, a Johns Hopkins chemist who co-led the research.
“We’re describing the events that determined why that ancestor got the amino acids he got.”
There are multiple theories about how life came to our planet.
But there are three main ideas: life arose from the basic gases and elements of Earth’s first ponds and seas, meteorites brought living things to Earth, and meteorites brought only the basic chemical components of life, not life itself. .
Experts in this field of astrobiology and analytical chemistry told DailyMail.com in December that the most likely explanation is a combination of the first and third theories.
They said that the building blocks of life were brought from space by meteorites, and that they gave rise to life in the primordial soup of the ponds and shallow seas of the early Earth.
However, the recent study revealed the first field evidence that it was not the volcanic eruption itself that created life, but rather the volcanic rays that created enough nitrogen in Earth’s atmosphere.