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Interaction, at Ambient Temperature and 80 °C, between Minerals and Artificial Seawaters Resembling the Present Ocean Composition and that of 4.0 Billion Years Ago

Abstract

Probably one of the most important roles played by minerals in the origin of life on Earth was to pre-concentrate biomolecules from the prebiotic seas. There are other ways to pre concentrate biomolecules such as wetting/drying cycles and freezing/sublimation. However, adsorption is most important. If the pre-concentration did not occur—because of degradation of the minerals—other roles played by them such as protection against degradation, formation of polymers, or even as primitive cell walls would be seriously compromised. We studied the interaction of two artificial seawaters with kaolinite, bentonite, montmorillonite, goethite, ferrihydrite and quartz. One seawater has a major cation and anion composition similar to that of the oceans of the Earth 4.0 billion years ago (ASW 4.0 Ga). In the other, the major cations and anions are an average of the compositions of the seawaters of today (ASWT). When ASWT, which is rich in Na+ and Cl, interacted with bentonite and montmorrilonite structural collapse occurred on the 001 plane. However, ASW 4.0 Ga, which is rich in Mg2+ and SO4 2−, did not induce this behavior. When ASW 4.0 Ga was reacted with the minerals for 24 h at room temperature and 80 °C, the release of Si and Al to the fluid was below 1 % of the amount in the minerals—meaning that dissolution of the minerals did not occur. In general, minerals adsorbed Mg2+ and K+ from the ASW 4.0 Ga and these cations could be used for the formation of polymers. Also, when the minerals were mixed with ASW 4.0 Ga at 80 °C and ASWT at room temperature or 80 °C it caused the precipitation of CaSO4∙2H2O and halite, respectively. Finally, further experiments (adsorption, formation of polymers, protection of molecules against degradation, primitive cell wall formation) performed under the conditions described in this paper will probably be more representative of what happened on the prebiotic Earth.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by grants from CNPq (edital universal, processo 474265/2013-7) and CNPq/Fundação Araucária (Programa de Apoio a Núcleos de Excelência – PRONEX, protocolo 24732).

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Correspondence to Dimas A. M. Zaia.

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Dedicated to the memory of Jim Ferris.

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Carneiro, C.E.A., Stabile, A.C., Gomes, F.P. et al. Interaction, at Ambient Temperature and 80 °C, between Minerals and Artificial Seawaters Resembling the Present Ocean Composition and that of 4.0 Billion Years Ago. Orig Life Evol Biosph 47, 323–343 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11084-016-9524-z

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Keywords

  • Seawater
  • Clay minerals
  • Iron oxide-hydroxides
  • Origin of life