Life's Origins

cellsUndersea volcano gives clues to start of life

Posted by Ratchet on September 10, 1998 at 11:29:12:

12:14 PM ET 09/09/98 Undersea volcano gives clues to start of life

By Mike Peacock

CARDIFF, Sept 9 (Reuters) - An undersea volcano has been discovered in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean which mimics the conditions in which life on earth may have started, scientists said on Wednesday.

Story http://www.infobeat.com/stories/cgi/story.cgi?id=2555974942-6df

[Text of Story: 12:14 PM ET 09/09/98

Undersea volcano gives clues to start of life

By Mike Peacock

CARDIFF, Sept 9 (Reuters) - An undersea volcano has been discovered in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean which mimics the conditions in which life on earth may have started, scientists said on Wednesday.
Joe Cann, Professor of Earth Sciences at Leeds University, told Britain's annual science festival that a ``black smoker' -- or volcanic vent in the ocean -- was found by oceanographer Chris German last year and was then analysed by French chemist Jean-Luc Charlou.  This smoker, called the Rainbow Field, produces far larger amounts of hydrogen than any discovered up to now -- up to 100 times more, Cann said.   ``The basic thesis is that life originated in black smokers on the ocean floor,' Cann told a news conference. ``New findings in the Atlantic show that some of the hot springs there are emitting abundant  hydrogen which was necessary for the origin of life at a time when the atmosphere had no oxygen in it.
``Life probably started at similar hot springs as a way of speeding up the reaction of hydrogen with carbon dioxide in ancient ocean water.'   Cann said early microbe-type organisms could have existed on Earth nearly four billion years ago. The newly-discovered Rainbow Field is about 3,500 metres (11,500 feet) long, 200 metres (660 feet) wide and sits  on the mid-Atlantic ridge.
``With the discovery of this hydrogen-spewing black smoker, it makes all these theories much more concrete,' Cann said. In the modern world, hydrogen is produced deep in the Earth and will quickly react with oxygen in the seawater. ``But the microbes can get there first and make the reaction happen faster. They act as a catalyst for the reaction and if that did not happen there would be no life on Earth.'
What is more, the process that scientists believe kicked off life on earth could still be going on in the deep right now.
``Could life be starting again now at hot springs in the modern ocean? Almost certainly yes, but it must be eaten in a trice by hungry microbes already there,' Cann said. Conversely, if things had been a little different, the Earth could have remained a lifeless planet.  The right kind of rocks had to be present to form hydrogen in the hot springs and the reaction of hydrogen and carbon dioxide only gives just enough energy for life to start. ``If both of those hadn't been true, then we wouldn't be here,' Cann said.
Professor John Parkes of the University of Bristol said new evidence suggested bacterial life was thriving deep down in the sea.  ``We have found an extra 10 percent of life on our planet,' he said, explaining that until recently it was thought that life was limited to a thin veneer on the Earth's surface.
Looking as far down as 842 metres (2,762 feet) in the PacP.PA> H1 net up 142 pct PARIS, Sept 9 (Reuters) - First half 1998.  (Figures in millions of French francs unless stated) Net attributable profit 285 vs 118 Net before goodwill amortisation and provisions 434 vs 299, Turnover 6,576 vs 6,146, Operating 1,107 vs 932,
Note - Ciments Francais said in a statement it expected a "very marked improvement in group net profit" for 1998 as a whole despite an uncertain economic environment.  It said the full year figure would be helped by a continued reduction in financing costs, a drop in exceptionals, amortisations and provisions for depreciation.
((Paris newsroom,  +33 1 4221 5452 , fax +33 1 4236 1072, par[email protected]))

REUTERS]

First Response

Posted by Kevin Kamberg on September 10, 1998 at 13:35:50:

"An undersea volcano has been discovered in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean which mimics the conditions in which life on earth may have started,"

That is what the article really says! The articles title is misleading, at the very least. Let's look at the text of the article closer, shall we?

``The basic thesis is that life originated in black smokers on the ocean floor,' Cann told a news conference. (How?) ``New findings in the Atlantic show that some of the hot springs there are emitting abundant hydrogen which was necessary for the origin of life at a time when the atmosphere had no oxygen in it. (This explains why he needs life to have started there, but doesn't explain HOW it started.)
``Life probably started at similar hot springs as a way of speeding up the reaction of hydrogen with carbon dioxide in ancient ocean water.'(Again explaining why he needs it to have happened that way, but not HOW.)
Cann said early microbe-type organisms could have existed on Earth nearly four billion years ago. The newly-discovered Rainbow Field is about 3,500 metres (11,500 feet) long, 200 metres (660 feet) wide and sits on the mid-Atlantic ridge.
``With the discovery of this hydrogen-spewing black smoker, it makes all these theories much more concrete,' Cann said. (How so?)
In the modern world, hydrogen is produced deep in the Earth and will quickly react with oxygen in the seawater. ``But the microbes can get there first and make the reaction happen faster. They act as a catalyst for the reaction and if that did not happen there would be no life on Earth.'(Again explaining WHY he needs it to have happened that way, but still not HOW.)
What is more, the process that scientists believe kicked off life on earth could still be going on in the deep right now. ``Could life be starting again now at hot springs in the modern ocean? Almost certainly yes, but it must be eaten in a trice by hungry microbes already there,' Cann said. (Translation: Don't expect it to ever be proven.)
Conversely, if things had been a little different, the Earth could have remained a lifeless planet. (Translation: "I'm guessing, but I don't want you to realize that.")
The right kind of rocks had to be present to form hydrogen in the hot springs and the reaction of hydrogen and carbon dioxide only gives just enough energy for life to start. ``If both of those hadn't been true, then we wouldn't be here,' Cann said. (That's interesting, but it STILL doesn't do what the title claims, which is: "Undersea volcano gives clues to start of life." So what he is really saying is that it had to have happened this way because the alternative is unthinkable.)


Response to Kevin

Posted by Helen on September 11, 1998 at 01:11:32:

On July 21, CNN news (on the web, but I don't know how to find it now....) reported "A group of oceanographers, glaciologists, meteorologists and biologists are currently on a mid-winter expedition to the Antarctic to further pursue the mysteries of the Adelie polynya. (ENN) -- Australia's scientific agency has been doing a lot of research in the Antarctic during this Year of the Ocean, and one of their recent discoveries is a source of dense, oxygen-rich Antarctic Bottom Water which breathes life into the world's oceans."

If we are getting such oxygen-rich water from under the ice caps, and from such depths, how can it be postulated that the early earth's atomosphere was without oxygen or that the first life, according to evolution, developed without that oxgen around?
The theory of the beginning of life and the actual findings of what is going on in the ocean don't seem to jive to me.
Which is only something to add to your questions and comments, Kevin.

Response to Helen

Posted by Lucas on September 11, 1998 at 11:30:08:

The two have little to do with each other. The primitive Earth's atmosphere is unlikely to have contained much free oxygen because under reasonable conditions of forming, any free oxygen would have rapidly reacted to form mineral solids. The oxygen-rich water from under the ice cap evidently gets its dissolved oxygen from somewhere by some (unknown to me) reaction of the modern Earth.

 

 

 

 
 
CARM ison
 
 
CARM.org
Copyright 2014

CONTACT US:
CARM Office number: 208-466-1301
Office hours: M-F; 9-5 pm; Mountain Time
Email: [email protected]
Mailing Address: CARM, PO BOX 1353, Nampa ID 83653