SCIENTISTS POSE QUESTION: DID EVOLUTION BEGIN BEFORE LIFE ITSELF?
A study undertaken by physicists demonstrates that fundamental characteristics of polymeric molecules, such as their subunit composition, are sufficient to trigger selection processes in a plausible prebiotic setting.
The physicists working out of the Ludwig Maximilians-Universitat Munchen (LMU) reported for ScienceDaily that before life emerged on Earth, many physicochemical processes on our planet were highly chaotic.
“A plethora of small compounds, and polymers of varying lengths, made up of subunits (such as the bases found in DNA and RNA), were present in every conceivable combination. Before life-like chemical processes could emerge, the level of chaos in these systems had to be reduced. In a new study, LMU physicists led by Dieter Braun show that basic features of simple polymers, together with certain aspects of the prebiotic environment, can give rise to selection processes that reduce disorder,” ScienceDaily reported.
In previous publications, Braun's research group explored how spatial order could have developed in narrow, water-filled chambers within porous volcanic rocks on the sea bottom.
These studies showed that, in the presence of temperature differences and a convective phenomenon known as the Soret effect, RNA strands could locally be accumulated by several orders of magnitude in a length-dependent manner.
"The problem is that the base sequences of the longer molecules that one obtains are totally chaotic," said Braun.