Life DID begin on Mars – then we all travelled to Earth on a meteorite: Element crucial to the origin of life ‘would only have been available on the red planet’

Thursday, Aug 29 2013

  • Molybdenum mineral is thought to have been  crucial to the origin of life
  • Material may have been available on the  surface of Mars and not on Earth
  • This could suggest that life came to Earth  on a Martian meteorite

By  Ellie Zolfagharifard

PUBLISHED: 17:07 EST, 28  August 2013 |  UPDATED: 17:07 EST, 28 August 2013


It might not just be men who are from Mars,  claims a new study which suggests that all life on Earth actually began on the  red planet.

An element believed to be crucial to the  origin of life would only have been available on the surface of Mars, it is  claimed.

Geochemist Professor Steven Benner argues  that the ‘seeds’ of life probably arrived on Earth in meteorites blasted off  Mars by impacts or volcanic eruptions.


Professor Steven Benner will tell geochemists gathering  today at the annual Goldschmidt conference that an oxidised mineral form of the  element molybdenum, which may have been crucial to the origin of life, could  only have been available on the surface of Mars and not on Earth

As  evidence he points to the oxidised mineral form of the element molybdenum,  thought to be a catalyst that helped organic molecules develop into the first  living structures.

Professor Benner will present his findings to  geochemists gathering today at the annual Goldschmidt conference.

‘In addition recent studies show that these  conditions, suitable for the origin of life, may still exist on Mars,’ said  Professor Benner, of the Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology in  Gainesville, Florida.

‘It’s only when molybdenum becomes highly  oxidised that it is able to influence how early life formed.

‘This form of molybdenum couldn’t have been  available on Earth at the time life first began, because three billion years ago  the surface of the Earth had very little oxygen, but Mars did.

‘It’s yet another piece of evidence which  makes it more likely life came to Earth on a Martian meteorite, rather than  starting on this planet.’


Molybdenum can be mined from becomes Molybdenite  (pictured). Scientists believe the oxidised form of molybdenum was available on  Mars, but not on Earth

The research Professor Benner will present at  the conference tackles two of the paradoxes which make it difficult for  scientists to understand how life could have started on Earth.

The first is dubbed by Professor Benner as  the ‘tar paradox’.

All living things are made of organic matter,  but if you add energy such as heat or light to organic molecules and leave them  to themselves, they don’t create life.

Instead, they turn into something more like  tar, oil or asphalt.

Prof Benner added: ‘Certain elements seem  able to control the propensity of organic materials to turn into tar,  particularly boron and molybdenum, so we believe that minerals containing both  were fundamental to life first starting.


Analysis of a Martian meteorite recently showed that  there was boron on Mars (pictured). Boron is though tot be another key element  for life

The second paradox is that life would have  struggled to start on the early Earth because it was likely to have been totally  covered by water.

Not only would this have prevented sufficient  concentrations of boron forming – it’s currently only found in very dry places  such as Death Valley – but water is corrosive to RNA, which scientists believe  was the first genetic molecule to appear.

Although there was water on Mars, it covered  much smaller areas than on early Earth.

Prof Benner said: ‘The evidence seems to be  building that we are actually all Martians; that life started on Mars and came  to Earth on a rock.

‘It’s lucky that we ended up here  nevertheless, as certainly Earth has been the better of the two planets for  sustaining life.

‘If our hypothetical Martian ancestors had  remained on Mars, there might not have been a story to tell.’


Scientists have discovered that Martian  meteorites found on Earth could be four billion years younger than previously  thought, meaning that Mars could still be geologically active.

A team of researchers has shown that a  meteorite from the Mars collection at the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada started  as a 200 million-year-old lava flow on Mars.

In a paper published in the journal Nature, a  new technique using isotopic and micro-structural analysis is described to  determine the age of rocks.

Scientists from the University of Portsmouth,  the Royal Ontario Museum, the University of Wyoming and the University of  California, claim that the rocks left Mars 20 million years ago.

Previously it was thought the rocks could be  up to 4,000 million years old.

Nearly 100 meteorites found on Earth are  thought to be from Mars.

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