Phosphorus, a key to life on the primitive earth

Abstract

The phosphorus of the primitive Earth was present as phosphates. It is strongly probable that a portion of the phosphate was present as condensed phosphates. The primitive Earth was highly deficient in the total available phosphorus until a sufficient quantity of phosphorus weathered from the igneous rocks in which it was entrapped. Approximately three billion years were required for the seas to become saturated. Until this time passed the seas acted as a giant sink for phosphorus, diluting it to the extent that all forms of life were deprived of the vital nutrient. When the seas became saturated, the rate of turn over of the phosphorus increased rapidly. As the seas pulsated, they left the excess precipitate phosphorus as sedimentary rock in locally rich deposits on which life could thrive.

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Present address: Planetary Biology Division, NASA Ames Research Center of Mountain View, CA, 94035.

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Griffith, E.J., Ponnamperuma, C. & Gabel, N.W. Phosphorus, a key to life on the primitive earth. Origins Life Evol Biosphere 8, 71–85 (1977). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00927976

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Keywords

  • Phosphate
  • Phosphorus
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Geochemistry
  • Sedimentary Rock