Tuesday, August 09, 2005

fun science - thermophiles back at the root

One of the medium sized controversies in origins of life on Earth, is whether thermophiles, or hyper-thermophiles are the root organisms at the "tree of life" (to the extent this even makes sense as a question).
The options are: a) life arose in "normal" environments and quickly colonised hyperthermal regions because of the free energy available there; b) life arose in hyperthermal/thermal regions and moved out from there; c) something else.

This is important, because it may inform us about what circumstances are sufficient, or necessary, for life to arise; and hence where the prospects for life, and persistent life, to be found.

So, has a nifty news story (seen on NASAwatch's list) about an old mystery - they the DNA->amino acid code is redundant and sparse, but not everywhere.
It makes for a very elegant reading, and strongly suggests that the thermophiles are ascendant again. At least for the first DNA forms. It is still possible that RNA life started in cooler waters and the step to DNA coding happened at higher temperatures.

This isn't a closed book, by any means, but the progress being made is astonishing and we can look forward to understanding much more about origin of life processes on the early Earth.

Bath University press release

Grauniad story

here is the original paper


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