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The origin of life as a planetary phenomenon

Sasselov, Dimitar D. and Grotzinger, John P. and Sutherland, John D. (2020) The origin of life as a planetary phenomenon. Science Advances, 6 (6). Art. No. eaax3419. ISSN 2375-2548. PMCID PMC7002131. doi:10.1126/sciadv.aax3419.

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We advocate an integrative approach between laboratory experiments in prebiotic chemistry and geologic, geochemical, and astrophysical observations to help assemble a robust chemical pathway to life that can be reproduced in the laboratory. The cyanosulfidic chemistry scenario described here was developed by such an integrative iterative process. We discuss how it maps onto evolving planetary surface environments on early Earth and Mars and the value of comparative planetary evolution. The results indicate that Mars can offer direct evidence for geochemical conditions similar to prebiotic Earth, whose early record has been erased. The Jezero crater is now the chosen landing site for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, making this an extraordinary opportunity for a breakthrough in understanding life’s origins.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle
Sasselov, Dimitar D.0000-0001-7014-1771
Grotzinger, John P.0000-0001-9324-1257
Sutherland, John D.0000-0001-7099-4731
Additional Information:© 2020 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial License 4.0 (CC BY-NC). Received for publication March 14, 2019. Accepted for publication November 22, 2019. Published 5 February 2020. We thank our colleagues A. Knoll, D. Catling, E. Boyd, J. Szostak, J. Hurowitz, and S. Ranjan for reading the manuscript and providing numerous helpful comments and suggestions, which improved our paper. Our reviewers J. Kasting and N. Tosca made excellent suggestions for which we are very thankful. Funding: We thank the Simons Foundation for funding (D.D.S.: grant no. 290360; J.D.S.: grant no. 290362; J.P.G.: grant no. 477125). D.D.S. acknowledges the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative. Author contributions: All three authors participated in coming up with the original idea for the paper, in writing portions of the main text, and in editing the entire paper for accuracy and clarity. The authors declare that they have no competing interests. Data and materials availability: All data needed to evaluate the conclusions in the paper are present in the paper and/or the materials cited here. Additional data related to this paper may be requested from the authors.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Simons Foundation290360
Simons Foundation290362
Simons Foundation477125
Harvard Origins of Life InitiativeUNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:6
PubMed Central ID:PMC7002131
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20200206-125057632
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Official Citation:The origin of life as a planetary phenomenon BY DIMITAR D. SASSELOV, JOHN P. GROTZINGER, JOHN D. SUTHERLAND Science Advances 05 Feb 2020: Vol. 6, no. 6, eaax3419 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax3419
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:101170
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:06 Feb 2020 22:28
Last Modified:16 Feb 2022 00:47

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