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When Deamer, the membrane-first proponent, read the new paper, he recalled having once observed something like the predicted behavior in hydrocarbon droplets he had extracted from a meteorite. When he illuminated the droplets in near-ultraviolet light, they began moving and dividing. Other researchers disagree, including Tang. She says that once droplets started to divide, they could easily have gained the ability to transfer genetic information, essentially divvying up a batch of protein-coding RNA or DNA into equal parcels for their daughter cells.

If this genetic material coded for useful proteins that increased the rate of droplet division, natural selection would favor the behavior. Protocells, fueled by sunlight and the law of increasing entropy , would gradually have grown more complex. Droplets naturally collect crusts of lipids that prefer to lie at the interface between the droplets and the surrounding liquid. Somehow, genes might have started coding for these membranes as a kind of protection.

The primordial plotline hinges, of course, on the outcome of future experiments, which will determine how robust and relevant the predicted droplet division mechanism really is. Can chemicals be found with the right two states, A and B, to bear out the theory? If so, then a viable path from nonlife to life starts to come into focus. Original story reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine , an editorially independent publication of the Simons Foundation whose mission is to enhance public understanding of science by covering research developments and trends in mathematics and the physical and life sciences.

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How Life Began: A Speculative Study in Modern Biology

Das Kapital. Author: Matt Simon Matt Simon. Author: Megan Molteni Megan Molteni. Actually Kinda Not. The genius of Darwin left , the way in which he suddenly turned all of biology upside down in with the publication of the Origin of Species , can sometimes give the misleading impression that the theory of evolution sprang from his forehead fully formed without any precedent in scientific history. But as earlier chapters in this history have shown, the raw material for Darwin's theory had been known for decades.

Geologists and paleontologists had made a compelling case that life had been on Earth for a long time, that it had changed over that time, and that many species had become extinct.

At the same time, embryologists and other naturalists studying living animals in the early s had discovered, sometimes unwittingly, much of the best evidence for Darwin's theory. Pre-Darwinian ideas about evolution It was Darwin's genius both to show how all this evidence favored the evolution of species from a common ancestor and to offer a plausible mechanism by which life might evolve.

Lamarck and others had promoted evolutionary theories, but in order to explain just how life changed, they depended on speculation.

Meaning of life

Typically, they claimed that evolution was guided by some long-term trend. Lamarck, for example, thought that life strove over time to rise from simple single-celled forms to complex ones. Many German biologists conceived of life evolving according to predetermined rules, in the same way an embryo develops in the womb. But in the mids, Darwin and the British biologist Alfred Russel Wallace independently conceived of a natural, even observable, way for life to change: a process Darwin called natural selection.

The pressure of population growth Interestingly, Darwin and Wallace found their inspiration in economics. A nation could easily double its population in a few decades, leading to famine and misery for all.

Origins of life - Biology - Khan Academy

When Darwin and Wallace read Malthus, it occurred to both of them that animals and plants should also be experiencing the same population pressure. It should take very little time for the world to be knee-deep in beetles or earthworms.

Seeking Proof With Peptoids

But the world is not overrun with them, or any other species, because they cannot reproduce to their full potential. Many die before they become adults. They are vulnerable to droughts and cold winters and other environmental assaults. And their food supply, like that of a nation, is not infinite.

Individuals must compete, albeit unconsciously, for what little food there is.

Natural Selection: Charles Darwin & Alfred Russel Wallace

The carrier pigeon bottom left and the Brunner pouter bottom right were derived from the wild rock pigeon top. Selection of traits In this struggle for existence, survival and reproduction do not come down to pure chance. Darwin and Wallace both realized that if an animal has some trait that helps it to withstand the elements or to breed more successfully, it may leave more offspring behind than others. On average, the trait will become more common in the following generation, and the generation after that. As Darwin wrestled with natural selection he spent a great deal of time with pigeon breeders, learning their methods. He found their work to be an analogy for evolution.