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Are We From Mars? Origin of Earth's Life May Have Begun on the Red Planet

First Posted: Aug 30, 2013 09:02 AM EDT
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Are we from Mars? Scientists have unveiled new evidence that seems to indicate life started on the Red Planet. The findings could tell us a little bit more about our origins and may just show that we all might be Martians.

So why would researchers believe that we might be from Mars? Researchers have discovered that an oxidized mineral form of the element molybdenum, which may have been crucial to the origin of life, could only have been available on the surface of Mars and not Earth. In addition, recent studies have shown that conditions suitable for the beginnings of life may still exist on the Red Planet.

"It's only when molybdenum becomes highly oxidized that it is able to influence how early life formed," said Steven Benner, one of the researchers, in a news release. "This form of molybdenum couldn't have been available on Earth at the time life first began, because three billion years ago the surface of the Earth had very little oxygen, but Mars did. It's yet another piece of evidence which makes it more likely life came to Earth on a Martian meteorite, rather than starting on this planet."

The origin of life has remained hotly debated among scientists. More and more theories have spawned concerning how the right conditions and chemical compounds managed to form the spark of life. This latest research, though, seems to indicate that the conditions were actually never right for life on Earth.

In fact, there are two paradoxes which make it difficult for scientists to understand how life could have started on Earth. The first is named the "tar paradox." All living things are made of organic matter, but if you add energy such as heat or light to organic molecules and leave them to themselves, they don't create life. Instead, they turn into something more like tar, oil or asphalt.

"Certain elements seem able to control the propensity of organic materials to turn into tar, particularly boron and molybdenum, so we believe that minerals containing both were fundamental to life first starting," said Benner. "Analysis of a Martian meteorite recently showed that there was boron on Mars; we now believe that the oxidized form of molybdenum was there too."

The second paradox is that Earth would have been completely covered by water. Not only would this have prevented sufficient concentrations of boron from forming, but water is also corrosive to RNA. This was probably the first genetic molecule to appear. While there was water on Mars, though, it covered far smaller areas than on early Earth.

The findings reveal that we may actually come from Mars. That said, more research needs to be conducted. If true, though, it could be that we may actually have discovered life on Mars--right here on Earth.

The findings were presented at the Goldschmidt Conference on Aug. 29.

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