Advertisement

What Can Life on Earth Tell Us About Life in the Universe?

  • Charles H. Lineweaver
  • Aditya Chopra
Chapter
Part of the Cellular Origin, Life in Extreme Habitats and Astrobiology book series (COLE, volume 22)

Abstract

We review the most fundamental features common to all terrestrial life. We argue that the ubiquity of these features makes them the best candidates for being features of extraterrestrial life. Other frequently espoused candidates are less secure because they are based on subjective notions of universal fitness, not on features common to all terrestrial life. For example, major transitions in the evolutionary pathway that led to Homo sapiens are sometimes considered to be fundamental transitions in the evolution of all life. However, these “major transitions” are largely arbitrary because a series of different major transitions can be identified along the evolutionary pathway to any extant species.

Keywords

Life Form Fundamental Feature Major Transition Good Guess Darwinian Evolution 
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.

References

  1. Amelin Y, Krot A (2007) Pb isotopic age of the Allende chondrules. Meteorit Planet Sci 42:1321–1335CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bains W (2004) Many chemistries could be used to build living systems. Astrobiology 4:137–167PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Battistuzzi FU, Hedges SB (2009a) Archaebacteria. In: Hedges SB, Kumar S (eds) The timetree of life. Oxford University Press, Oxford/New York, pp 101–105Google Scholar
  4. Battistuzzi FU, Hedges SB (2009b) Eubacteria. In: Hedges SB, Kumar S (eds) The timetree of life. Oxford University Press, Oxford/New York, pp 106–115Google Scholar
  5. Benner SA, Ricardo A, Carrigan MA (2004) Is there a common chemical model for life in the universe? Curr Opin Chem Biol 8:672–689PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brown JR, Doolittle WF (1995) Root of the universal tree of life base on ancient aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase gene duplications. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 92:2441–2445PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Catling DC, Bergsman DS (2010) On detecting exoplanet biospheres from atmospheric chemical disequilibrium. Astrobiology science conference 2010 abstract #5533Google Scholar
  8. Cech TR (1985) Self-splicing RNA: implications for evolution. In: Bourne GH, Danielli JF, Jeon KW (eds) Int Rev Cytol Acad Press 93:3–22Google Scholar
  9. Chen X, Li N, Ellington A (2007) Ribozyme catalysis of metabolism in the RNA world. Chem Biodivers 4:633–655PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chopra A, Lineweaver CH, Brocks JJ, Ireland TR (2010) Palaeoecophylostoichiometrics: searching for the elemental composition of the last universal common ancestor. In: Short W,. Cairns I (eds) Australian space science conference series: 9th conference proceedings. NSSA full refereed proceedings CD, National Space Society of Australia Ltd, SydneyGoogle Scholar
  11. Cleland C, Chyba C (2002) Defining life. Orig Life Evol Biosph 32:387–393PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Crick FHC (1968) The origin of the genetic code. J Mol Biol 38:367–379PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Davies PCW, Lineweaver CH (2005) Finding a second sample of life on earth. Astrobiology 5:154–163PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Davies PCW, Benner SA, Cleland CE, Lineweaver CH, McKay CP, Wolfe-Simon F (2009) Signatures of a shadow biosphere. Astrobiology 9:241–249PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dawkins R (2004) The ancestor’s tale: a pilgrimage to the dawn of life. Weidenfeld and Nicholson, LondonGoogle Scholar
  16. De Duve C (1995) Vital dust: the origin and evolution of life on earth. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  17. De Duve C (2007) Chemistry and selection. Chem Divers 4:574–583Google Scholar
  18. Feinberg G, Shapiro R (1980) Life beyond earth: the intelligent earthling’s guide to life in the universe. William Morrow, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  19. Freeland SJ, Knight RD, Landweber LF, Hurst LD (2000) Early fixation of an optimal genetic code. Mol Biol Evol 17:511–518PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Gatland KW, Dempster DD (1957) The inhabited universe: an enquiry staged on the frontiers of knowledge. McKay, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  21. Gaucher EA, Kratzer JT, Randall RN (2010) Deep phylogeny – how a tree can help characterize early life on earth. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol 2:a002238PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gilbert W (1986) Origin of life: the RNA world. Nature 319:618CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gould SJ (1977) Ontogeny and phylogeny. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  24. Gould SJ (1989) Implications of an iconography. In: Wonderful life: the burgess shale and the nature of history. Norton & Company, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  25. Gould SJ (2002) The structure of evolutionary theory. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  26. Halliday AN (2008) A young moon-forming giant impact at 70–110 million years accompanied by late-stage mixing, core formation and degassing of the earth. Philos Trans R Soc A 366:4163–4181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hedges SB (2009) Life. In: Hedges SB, Kumar S (eds) The timetree of life. Oxford University Press, Oxford/New York, pp 89–98Google Scholar
  28. Hubbard GS, Naderi FM, Garvin JB (2002) Following the water, the new program for mars exploration. Acta Astron 51:337–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ida S, Lin DNC (2004) Toward a deterministic model of planetary formation. I. A desert in the mass and semimajor axis distributions of extrasolar planets. Astrophys J 604:388–413CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Iwabe N, Kuma K-I, Hasegawa M, Osawa S, Miyata T (1989) Evolutionary relationship of archaebacteria, eubacteria, and eukaryotes inferred from phylogenetic trees of duplicated genes. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 86:9355–9359PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Joyce GF (2002) The antiquity of RNA based evolution. Nat Insight 418:214–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Joyce GF (1994) In: Deamer DW, Fleischacker GR (eds) Origins of life: the central concepts. Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Boston, pp xi–xiiGoogle Scholar
  33. Kleidon A (2010) Life, hierarchy, and the thermodynamic machinery of planet earth. Phys Life Rev 7(4):424–460PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kuchner MJ (2003) Volatile-rich earth-mass planets in the habitable zone. Astrophys J 596: L105–L108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Léger A, Selsis F, Sotin C et al (2004) A new family of planets? “Ocean-planets”. Icarus 169:499–504CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lineweaver CH (2005) Intelligent life in the universe book review of “Intelligent life in the universe: from common origins to the future of humanity” by Peter Ulmschneider, review published in Astrobiology 5:658–661Google Scholar
  37. Lineweaver CH (2006) We have not detected extraterrestrial life, or have we? In: Seckbach J, Walsh M (eds) Life as we know it: cellular origins and life in extreme habitats and astrobiology. Springer Life Sciences, Dordrecht, p 445Google Scholar
  38. Lineweaver CH (2009) Paleontological tests: human-like intelligence is not a convergent feature of evolution. In: Seckbach J, Walsh M (eds) From fossils to astrobiology, cellular origins and life in extreme habitats and astrobiology, vol 12. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 353–368Google Scholar
  39. Lineweaver CH, Egan C (2008) Life, gravity and the second Law of thermodynamics. Phys Life Rev 5:225–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lineweaver CH, Grether D (2003) What fraction of sun-like stars have planets? Astrophys J 598:1350–1360CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lineweaver CH, Schwartzman (2005) Cosmic thermobiology: thermal constraints on the origin and evolution of life in the universe. In: Seckbach J (ed) Origins: cellular origins and life in extreme habitats and astrobiology, vol 6. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 233–248Google Scholar
  42. Lodders K, Palme H, Gail H-P (2009) Abundances of the elements in the solar system. In: JE Trumper (ed) Landolt-Bornstein, new series, astronomy and astrophysics. vol VI/4B, Chapter 4.4, Springer, Berlin, pp 560–630Google Scholar
  43. Lovelock JE (1975) Thermodynamics and the recognition of alien biospheres. Proc R Soc Lond B 189:167–181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Martin W, Russell MJ (2003) On the origins of cells: a hypothesis for the evolutionary transitions from abiotic geochemistry to chemoautotrophic prokaryotes, and from prokaryotes to nucleated cells. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 358:59–83PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. McKay CP (2004) What is life – and how do we search for it on other worlds? PLoS Biol 2:1260–1263CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. McShea DW, Brandon RN (2010) Biology’s first law: the tendency for diversity and complexity to increase in evolutionary systems. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  47. Mordasini C, Alibert Y, Benz W, Naef D (2009) Extrasolar planet population synthesis. II. Statistical comparison with observations. Astron Astrophys 501:1161–1184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Morris RM, Rappe MS, Connon SA, Vergin KL, Siebold WA, Carlson CA, Giovannoni SJ (2002) SAR11 clade dominates ocean surface bacterioplankton communities. Nature 420:806–810PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Orgel LE (2004) Prebiotic chemistry and the origin of the RNA world. Crit Rev Biochem Mol Biol 39:99–123PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Pace N (1997) A molecular view of microbial diversity and the biosphere. Science 276:734–740PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Pace N (2001) The universal nature of biochemistry. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 98:805–808PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Pizzarello S (2007) The chemistry that preceded life’s origin: a study guide from meteorites. Chem Biodivers 4:680–693PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Redfield AC (1934) On the proportions of organic derivations in sea water and their relation to the composition of plankton. In: Daniel James RJ (ed) Johnstone memorial volume. University Press of Liverpool, Liverpool, pp 177–192Google Scholar
  54. Robles JA, Lineweaver CH, Grether D et al (2008) A comprehensive comparison of the sun to other stars: searching for self-selection effects. Astrophys J 684:691–706CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sagan C (1970) “Life” in the encyclopedia britannica. 14th editionGoogle Scholar
  56. Schmitt-Kopplin P, Gabelica Z, Gougeon RD et al (2010) High molecular diversity of extraterrestrial organic matter in Murchison meteorite revealed 40 years after its fall. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 107:2763–2768PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Schneider ED, Sagan D (2005) Into the cool: energy flow, thermodynamics, and life. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago/LondonGoogle Scholar
  58. Sleep NH, Zanhnle KJ, Kasting JF, Morowitz HJ (1989) Annihilation of ecosystems by large asteroid impacts on the early earth. Nature 342:139–142PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Smith JM, Szathmáry E (1995) The major transitions in evolution. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  60. Tlusty T (2010) A colorful origin for the genetic code: information theory, statistical mechanics and the emergence of molecular codes. Phys Life Rev 7:362–376PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wong JT-F, Chen J, Mat W-K, Ng S-K, Xue H (2007) Polyphasic evidence delineating the root of life and roots of biological domains. Gene 403:39–52PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Planetary Science Institute, Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics and the Research School of Earth SciencesAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

Personalised recommendations