Mars, unlike Earth, has not suffered a continental drift or a shift in its plate tectonics which has left billions of years old rocks intact, says the study.
For many years, scientists have claimed that life on Earth may have begun with amino acids brought to our planet by incoming meteorites. A new team of scientists recently announced a significant breakthrough in determining the origin of life and explaining how it came to be. Interestingly, the experts also suggested that the aforementioned factor could have been responsible for the origin of life on Earth’s neighbor, Mars.
How did life originate on Earth?
According to Elisa Biondi’s study, which was published in the journal Astrobiology, ribonucleic acid (RNA), an analog of DNA, was most likely the first genetic material for life on Earth. The RNA spontaneously forms on basalt lava glass, which was abundant on our planet approximately 4.35 billion years ago, according to experts at the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution.
Stephen Mojzsis, another study contributor, explained that basaltic glass formed due to an abundance of molten basaltic lava. It is clear that the Earth was exposed to heavy impacts for millions of years and experienced rampant volcanic activity, which resulted in an abundance of basaltic lava and thus basaltic glass. “Impacts also evaporated water to give dry land, providing aquifers where RNA could have formed”, Mojzsis added as per Phys.org. The study also highlighted that the percolation of nucleoside triphosphate through basaltic glass produces long RNA molecules of 100-200 nucleotides in length.
How does this relate to Mars?
The aforementioned discovery is important because experts believe that similar basaltic glass can be found on Mars. This implies that the formation of RNA on Mars must have occurred at some point, possibly leading to the origin of life. “If life emerged on Earth via this simple path, then it also likely emerged on Mars,” Steven Benner said in a statement as per Phys.org. “This makes it even more important to seek life on Mars as soon as we can.”
The experts reached this conclusion because it is clear that Mars has not experienced continental drift or a shift in plate tectonics, leaving billions of years old rocks intact. Meanwhile, whether or not life existed on Mars will be clear once NASA retrieves the rock samples collected by its Perseverance rover, which is expected to happen in the early 2030s.