Advertisement

Abstract

Life appears early in the geological record of the Earth. This implies that either the origin of life was rapid or that life was carried to Earth from elsewhere. Comets have been suggested as the likely vectors for transporting life to Earth. The origin of life may have occurred in an initial phase of comet evolution when radioactive heating may have produced a liquid water core. However, a strong case cannot be made for the origin of life in comets. If life originated beyond the solar system and was carried along with interstellar organics to the solar nebula by unknown mechanisms, then comets are ideal for the collection of these lifeforms, as well as their storage and distribution to planetary surfaces. If comets were responsible for introducing life to Earth, then Earth-like life should be detectable in comets as well as in interplanetary dust particles originating from comets. The limited organic analyses of cometary material available from the missions to Comet Halley failed to detect amino acids and hence do not support the presence of Earth-type life in comets. Remote spectral analyses are virtually useless for this identification.

Keywords

Solar System Liquid Water Solar Nebula Interstellar Space Complex Organic Molecule 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Allamandolla, L.J., S.A. Sandford, and B. Wopenka (1987). Interstellar polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and carbon in interplanetary dust particles and meteorites. Science 237, 56–59.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anders, E. (1989). Prebiotic organic matter from comets and asteroids. Nature 342, 255257.Google Scholar
  3. Bar-Nun, A., A. Lazcano-Araujo, and J. Oro (1981). Could life have evolved in cometary nuclei? Origins Life 11, 387–394.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Boston, P.J., M.V. Ivanov, and C.P. McKay (1992). On the possibility of chemosynthetic ecosystems in subsurface habitats on Mars. Icarus 95, 300–308.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. R.J. Cano and M.K. Borucki (1995). Revival and identification of bacterial spores in 25- to 40-million-year-old Dominican amber. Science 268, 1060–1064.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chyba, C.F. (1987). The cometary contribution to the oceans of primitive Earth. Nature 330, 632–635.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chyba, C. and C. Sagan (1987). Cometary organics but no evidence for bacteria. Nature 329, 208.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chyba, C.F., P.J. Thomas, L. Brookshaw, and C. Sagan (1990). Cometary delivery of organic molecules to the early Earth. Science 249, 366–373.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Clark, B.C. (1988). Primeval procreative comet pond. Origins Life Evol. Biosphere 18, 209–238.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Davies, R.E. (1988). Panspermia: Unlikely, unsupported, but just possible. Acta Astronaut. 17 129–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Davies, R.E. and R.H. Koch (1991). All the observed universe has contributed to life. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 334, 391–403.Google Scholar
  12. Davies, R.E., A.M. Delluva, and R.H. Koch (1984). Investigations of claims for interstellar organisms and complex organic molecules. Nature 311, 748–750.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Davis, W.L. and C.P. McKay (1995). The origin of life: A survey of theories and application to Mars. submitted.Google Scholar
  14. Delsemme, A.H. (1992). Cometary origin of carbon, nitrogen and water on the Earth. Origins Life Evol. Biosphere 21, 279–298.ADSGoogle Scholar
  15. Eigen, M., Lindemann, B.F., Tietze, M., Winkler-Oswatitsch, R., Dress, A. and von Haeseler, A. (1989). How old is the genetic code? Statistical geometry provides an answer. Science 244, 673–679.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gilichinsky, D.A., E.A. Vorobyova, L.G. Erokhina, D.G. Fyordorov-Dayvdov, and N.R. Chaikovskaya (1992). Long-term preservation of microbial ecosystems in permafrost. Adv. Space Res. 12 (4) 255–263.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hoham, R.W., J.E. Mullet, and S.C. Roemer (1983). The life history and ecology of the snow alga Chloromonas polyptera comb. nov. (Chlorophyta, Volvocales), Canadian J. Botany 61, 2416–2429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hoham, R.W. (1975). Optimum temperatures and temperature ranges for growth of snow algae, Arctic and Alpine Res 7, 13–24.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hoover, R.B., F. Hoyle, N.C. Wickramasinghe, M.J. Hoover, and S. Al-Mufti (1986). Diatoms on Earth, comets, Europa and in interstellar space. Earth, Moon, Planets, 35, 19–45.Google Scholar
  20. Horneck, G., Brucker, H., and Reitz, G. (1994). Long-term survival of bacterial spores in space. Adv. Space Sci. 14, (10) 41–45.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hoyle, F. and C. Wickramasinghe (1979). On the nature of interstellar grains. Astrophys. Space Sci. 66, 77–90.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hoyle, F. and C. Wickramasinghe (1981). Comets-a vehicle for panspermia. In Comets and the Origin of Life (C. Ponnamperuma, Ed.). pp 227–239. Reidel, Dordrecht, Holland, p. 27.Google Scholar
  23. Irvine, W.M., S.B. Leschine, and F.P. Schloerb (1980). Thermal history, chemical compo-sition and relationship of comets to the origin of life. Nature 283, 748–749.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jessberger, E.K., A. Christoforidis, and J. Kissel (1988). Aspects of the major element composition of Halley’s dust. Nature, 332, 691–695.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kissel, J. and F.R. Krueger (1987). The organic component in the dust from comet Halley as measured by the PUMA mass spectrometer on board Vega 1. Nature 326, 755–760.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Krueger, F.R. and J. Kissel (1989). Biogenesis by cometary grains-thermodyamic apsects of self-organization. Origins Life Evol. Biosphere 19, 87–93.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kushner, D. (1981). Extreme environments: Are there any limits to life? In Comets and the Origin of Life ( C. Ponnamperuma, ed.). Reidel, Dordrecht, Holland, pp. 241–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Maher, K. A., and D. J. Stevenson (1988). Impact frustration of the origin of life, Nature 331, 612–614.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Marcus, J.N. amd M.A. Olsen (1991). Biological implications of organic compounds in comets. In Comets in the Post-Hallye Era, Vol. I ( R.L. Newburn, Jr., ed.). Kluwer, Netherlands, pp. 439–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Melosh, H.J. 1985. Ejection of rock fragments from planetary bodies, Geology 13, 144–148.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Melosh, H.J. (1988). The rocky road to paspermia. Nature 332, 687–688.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Miller, S.L. (1992), The prebiotic synthesis of organic compounds as a step toward the origin of life. In Major Events in the History of Life (J.W. Schopf, ed.). Jones and Bartlett, Boston, MA., pp. 1–28.Google Scholar
  33. Oberbeck, V.R. and H. Aggarwal (1992). Comet impacts and chemical evolution on the bombarded Earth. Origins Life Evol. Biosphere 21, 317–338.ADSGoogle Scholar
  34. Ord, J. (1961). Comets and the formation of biochemical compounds on the primitive Earth. Nature 190, 389–390.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Ott, U. (1993). Interstellar grains in meteorites. Nature 364, 25–33.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Prialnik, D., A. Bar-Nun, and M. Podolak (1987). Radiogenic heating of comets by 26A1 and implications for their time of formation. Astrophys. J. 319 993–1002.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Podolak M. and D. Prialnik (1996). 26A1 and liquid water environments in comets. This book.Google Scholar
  38. Schidlowski, M. (1988). A 3,800-million-year isotopic record of life from carbon in sedimentary rocks. Nature 333, 313–318.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Schopf, J.W. (1993). Microfossils of the early Archean apex chert: New evidence for the antiquity of life. Science 260, 640–646.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Secker, J., J. Lepock, and P. Wesson (1994). Damage due to ultraviolet and ionizing radiaton during the ejection of shielded micro-organisms from the vicinity of 1 Mo main sequence and red giant stars. Astrophys. Space Sci. 219, 1–28.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Simonelli, D., J.B. Pollack, C.P. McKay, R.T. Reynolds, and A.L. Summers (1989). The carbon budget in the outer solar system. Icarus, 82, 1–35.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Shock, E.L. and M.D. Schulte (1990). Amino-acid synthesis in carbonaceous meteorites by aqueous alteration of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Nature 343, 728–731.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Sleep, N.H., Zahnle, K.J, and Kasting, J.F., and Morowitz, H.J. (1989). Annihilation of exosystems by large asteroid impacts on the early Earth. Nature 342, 139–142.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Steel, D. (1992). Cometary supply of terrestrial organics: Lessons from the K/T and the present epoch. Origins Life Evol. Biosphere 21, 2339–2357.Google Scholar
  45. Tingle, T.N., J.A. Tyburczy, T.J. Ahrens, and C.H. Becker (1992). The fate or organic matter during planetary accretion: Preliminary studies of the organic chemistry of experimentally shocked Murchison meteorite. Origins Life Evol. Biosphere 21, 385397.Google Scholar
  46. Wächtershäuser, G. (1988). Before enzymes and templates: Theory of surface methabolism, Microbiological Reviews 52, 452–484.Google Scholar
  47. Wallis, M.K. (1980). Radiogenic melting of primordial comet interiors. Nature 284, 43 1433.Google Scholar
  48. Wallis M.K., F. Hoyle, and C. Wickramasinghe (1992). Cometary habitats for primitive life. Adv. Space Res. 12 (4), 281–285.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Wharton, R.A., Jr., C.P. McKay, G.M. Simmons, Jr., and B.C. Parker (1985). Cryoconite holes on glaciers, BioScience 35, 499–503.Google Scholar
  50. Woese, C. R. (1987). Bacterial evolution, Microbiol. Rev. 51, 221–271.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. P. McKay

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations