Since it’s been so difficult to re-invent life on Earth using wet technology, we shouldn’t ignore the weird inventions Time and Mother Nature have come up with here. Like, who would expect to find a whole new type of life in the Colorado River?
One estimate suggests these new life forms will add 50% more phyla to our catalogs of mini-life. They are tiny, 0.1-0.2 microns wide, round and hairy. They function with only one million base pairs of short RNA. (E. coli has 5 million.) And they don’t grow in the lab as expected. They use fermentation for energy and need help making nucleotides and amino acids, which means they are dependent on other organisms for these “…basic biosynthetic pathways.” (Nature July 9, 2015.) Screening the river found these mini-critters. They were missed by the usual 16SrRNA searches. Quanta magazine.org asks: are they invaders from outer space? Or simply a proto-RNA? Could they provide some clue to the complex processes required to trigger life-forms on Earth and elsewhere, life-forms stable enough to evolve?
As we’ve noted before, RNA is considered by some to be the most likely molecule that started the whole business of living. It not only participates in building the amino acids we need. Its four bases (AGUC), phosphate and sugar structure provides needed coding, while also acting as a catalyst to speed up and enable life’s essential chemical reactions. The bottom line seems to be that the necessary components to get life started need to emerge at the same time and same place, as they did on Earth some 4 billion years ago.
Those three necessary components are
1)genetic material that carries information,
2) proteins, and
3) a protective cellular structures.
Building blocks for all three components have been seen in primordial chemical reactions using electrons. Biochemists have seen carbon compounds and ultraviolet light produce 12 amino acids, uracil and cytosine nucleotides. The latter two are found in RNA, which now seems to exist in many forms we didn’t imagine a decade ago. RNA may have some more surprises for us. Meanwhile, we’ll keep watch on our near-twin, elder planet, Kepler 452b, as our new telescopes come online and begin sniffing such planets’ atmosphere for signs of life and SETI looks for sentience out there.
— Author of The Archives of Varok The View Beyond Earth (Book 1. Rewrite of A Place Beyond Man
1975) The Webs of Varok (Book 2.) Nautilus silver award 2013 YA ForeWord finalist 2012 adult SF The Alien Effect (Book 3.) An Alien’s Quest–Reconciliation and Hope (Book 4. coming in 2015) Excerpts, Synopses, Reviews, On Writing, Characters and More- http://ArchivesofVarok.com Other Book Reviews-
http://www.goodreads.com/Cary_Neeper How the Hen House Turns-
http://www.ladailypost.com Complexity, Bio, Bibliography and Links-
http://caryneeper.com Astrobiology- http://astronaut.wpengine.com search:Who’s