Prebiotic chemical synthesis
Laboratory experiments demonstrate the chemical reactivity of atmospheres of methane, ammonia and water vapor in the presence of lightning discharges and light. The relatively short lifetime of reduced species under these conditions suggests not only rapid changes to the atmosphere, but also rapid accumulation of more complex organic compounds which would end up in the global ocean. This prebiotic chemistry was augmented by drying and wetting of organic-rich ocean water in coastal pools, leading to more complex prebiotic molecules and even polymers of various lengths. That short-term and simple laboratory experiments can produce a wide array of biologically important compounds suggests that life did, in fact, arise in some kind of pond loaded with precursor molecules, as Darwin originally conceived.