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Meteoric visitor could have brought key phosphorus-based molecule for life on Earth

By 9th August 2019 August 14th, 2019 No Comments

How did the first organisms on Earth incorporate the critical element phosphorus? Researchers at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa together with colleagues from France and Taiwan now believe a meteorite could be the critical link. Phosphorus is a key element for living organisms , but most phosphorus on Earth is bound in a state that does not allow for easy release or access. Modern organisms have evolved to extract the limited supplies of phosphorus in water.

The new research now suggests that alkyl phosphonic acids, which are the only known phosphorus-containing organic compounds of extraterrestrial origin and were delivered to Earth on the Murchison meteorite, could have been the early source of soluble organic phosphorus available for Earth’s first organisms. The finding is reported in Science Advances.

The French member of the team is Cornelia Meinert from Université Côte d’Azur, Institut de Chimie de Nice.

Read the research paper: Origin of alkylphosphonic acids in the interstellar medium. Andrew M. Turner et al. Science Advances 10.1126/sciadv.aaw4307.

Read the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa news story.