Bombshell as scientists find material in rock ‘that may show origin of life’

Scientists hoping to unlock the origins of life think a rock dredged up from the depths of the Pacific Ocean could help answer questions about how life was created on Earth.

Researchers at the Institute of Deep Sea Science and Engineering discovered carbon-rich, fatty compounds hidden within a rock that was retrieved from 6,400 metres (21,000 feet) under the sea.

Analysts had hoped the rock could indicate oil reserves – but have hypothesised the compound within the rock could instead prove how life was formed on Earth.

However, the researchers were stumped when they failed to discover any traces of bacteria alongside the compound – leaving them unsure how the material ended up inside the rock in the first place.

South China Morning Post – which reported on the findings – states that the researchers have since considered the fatty organic material could have been created by the rock itself as the scientists continue to speculate the origins of the materials.

Professor Peng Xiaotong, who led the study, suggested the rock may “generate the first building blocks for the origin of life.”

The research has been published in the Geology journal this month – with experts suggesting it could support a theory that life came from rocks, rather than from falling from the sky in a meteorite or being created by a "primordial soup" of methane, ammonia, hydrogen and water heated by volcanos.

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The rock used in Professor Xiaotong’s research is of the "serpentinite" group which is found within the Earth’s crust and formed by tectonic movement.

Professor Xiaotong suggested the rock consists of a “unique structure could provide countless tiny chambers for chemical reactions between carbon, oxygen and hydrogen atoms to form organic compounds under a certain heat and pressure.”

However, Professor Lu Hongbo, from the China University of Petroleum, has already debunked the theory as guesswork.

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He argues Professor Xiaotong’s work is just one of many theories about how life began, telling the South China Morning Post: “They are all just guesses. This [study] is also a guess.”

While researchers in general do agree that life on Earth would not have happened until after the formation of water on the planet surface.

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