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Lost City Vent

March 4, 2008

An unusual deep-sea vent may have churned out the first seeds of life.


A possible ground zero for life. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Many scientists believe that the chemical building blocks of life could only have come to Earth from space. But new evidence points to a more local source. A team led by geochemist Giora Proskurowski, of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, has discovered key organic molecules called hydrocarbons forming in a field of undersea vents known as theLost City. The hydrocarbons were traced to a reaction between seawater and the minerals buried beneath the sea floor.

GIORA PROSKUROWSI (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution):
So these hydrocarbons are being formed from purely inorganic materials, with no connection to the biosphere or any organic material that has previously been formed.

Other evidence suggests that vents like the Lost City may have been more common in Earth’s distant past – perhaps common enough to sow the seeds of life around the globe. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.