Bloomberg News

Cellular Life on Earth Began in Ponds, Not Ocean, Study Says

February 17, 2012

Feb. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Cellular life on Earth probably originated in ponds, not the ocean, scientists said, challenging previous assertions.

Inland volcanic pools are richer than deep-sea ones in zinc, manganese, phosphorous and other compounds Earth’s first cells needed, according to a study by scientists at Germany’s University of Osnabruck in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Earlier studies have suggested that marine fissures warmed by volcanic activity were the most suitable cradles of life. Inland pools were probably better suited to cellular growth because they received sunlight, a source of energy, the authors said in the article published today.

“These terrestrial fields appear to provide the best environment on the primordial Earth for the origin of protocells,” they wrote.

The early cells likely assembled in volcanic ponds that acted like hatcheries, venting vapor from the planet’s interior, according to Armen Mulkidjanian and colleagues. The chemical composition of these emissions most closely matches the chemistry of the cells, they said.

--Editors: Marthe Fourcade, Kristen Hallam.

To contact the reporter on this story: Makiko Kitamura in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Phil Serafino at

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