Origins of life

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 413–416 | Cite as

Scavenging of soluble organic matter from the prebiotic oceans

  • A. Nissenbaum


The existence of hot or cold ‘nutrient broth’ or ‘primeval soup’ is challenged on the basis of the recent geochemistry of soluble organic carbon in the oceans. Most of the dissolved organic carbon is recycled quickly by organisms, but the residual, biologically refractive, organic matter is efficiently scavenged from the oceans (residence time of 1000 to 3500 years) by nonbiologically mediated chemical and physical processes, such as adsorption on sinking minerals, polymerization and aggregation to humic type polymers or by aggregation to particulate matter through bubbling ans sinking of this material to the ocean bottom. Since there is no reason to believe that such nonbiological scavenging was not operative in the prebiotic oceans as well, then the prolonged existence of ‘organic soup’ is very doubtful. The question of the orgin of life is thus assumed to be related to solid-liquid interfacial activity, and the answer may be associated with sediment-water interaction rather than with solution chemistry.


Polymer Organic Matter Organic Chemistry Organic Carbon Geochemistry 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Nissenbaum
    • 1
  1. 1.Isotope DepartmentWeizmann Institute of ScienceRehovotIsrael

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