Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Endogenous production, exogenous delivery and impact-shock synthesis of organic molecules: an inventory for the origins of life

Abstract

Sources of organic molecules on the early Earth divide into three categories: delivery by extraterrestrial objects; organic synthesis driven by impact shocks; and organic synthesis by other energy sources (such as ultraviolet light or electrical discharges). Estimates of these sources for plausible end-member oxidation states of the early terrestrial atmosphere suggest that the heavy bombardment before 3.5 Gyr ago either produced or delivered quantities of organics comparable to those produced by other energy sources.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. Schopf, J. W. & Walter, M. R. in Earth's Earliest Biosphere (ed. Schopf, J. W.) 214–239 (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1983).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Walter, M. R. in Earth's Earliest Biosphere (ed. Schopf, J. W.) 240–259 (Princeton University press, Princeton, 1983).

    Google Scholar 

  3. Schidlowski, M. Nature 333, 313–318 (1988).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Basaltic Volcanism Study Project, Basaltic Volcanism on the Terrestrial Planets (Pergamon, New York, 1981).

  5. Wilhelms, D. E. in The Geology of the Terrestrial Planets, NASA SP-469, 107–205 (1984).

    Google Scholar 

  6. Melosh, H. J. & Vickery, A. M. Nature 338, 487–489 (1989).

    ADS  CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. Chyba, C. F. Nature 343, 129–133 (1990).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Maher, K. A. & Stevenson, D. J. Nature 331, 612–614 (1988).

    ADS  CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  9. Oberbeck, V. R. & Fogleman, G. Nature 339, 434 (1989).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Sleep, N. H., Zahnle, K. J., Kasting, J. F. & Morowitz, H. J. Nature 342, 139–142 (1989).

    ADS  CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. Oró, J. Nature 190, 389–390 (1961).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Anders, E. & Owen, T. Science 198, 453–465 (1977).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Chyba, C. F. Nature 330, 632–635 (1987).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Anders, E. Nature 342, 255–257 (1989).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Chyba, C. F., Thomas, P. J., Brookshaw, L. & Sagan, C. Science 249, 366–373 (1990).

    ADS  CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. Delsemme, A. H. in Comets in the Post-Haltey Era (eds Newburn, R. L., Neugebauer, M. & Rahe, J.) 377–428 (Kluwer, Dordrecht, 1991).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  17. Bar-Nun, A., Bar-Nun, N., Bauer, S. H. & Sagan, C. Science 168, 470–473 (1970).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Fegley, B., Prinn, R. G., Hartman, H. & Watkins, G. H. Nature 319, 305–308 (1986).

    ADS  CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  19. Turco, R. P. et al. Icarus 50, 1–52 (1982).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Levin, B. Yu. & Bronshten, V. A. Meteoritics 21, 199–215 (1986).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Folinsbee, R. E., Douglas, J. A. V. & Maxwell, J. A. Geochim. cosmochim. Acta 31, 1625–1635 (1967).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Zhao, M. & Bada, J. L. Nature 339, 463–465 (1989).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Zahnle, K. & Grinspoon, D. Nature 348, 157–160 (1990).

    ADS  CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  24. Chyba, C. F. Nature 348, 113–114 (1990).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Ryder, G. Eos 71, 313, 322–323 (1990).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Chyba, C. F. Icarus 92, 217–233 (1991).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. McKinnon, W. B., Chapman, C. R. & Housen, K. R. in Uranus (eds Bergstrahl, J. T, Miner, E. D. & Matthews, M. S.) (University of Arizona Press, Tucson, in the press).

  28. Dreibus, G. & Wänke, H. in Origin and Evolution of Planetary and Satellite Atmospheres (eds Atreya, S. K., Pollack, J. B. & Matthews, M. S.) 268–288 (University of Arizona Press, Tucson, 1989).

    Google Scholar 

  29. Walker, J. C. G. Origins Life 16, 117–127 (1986).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Kasting, J. F. & Ackerman, T. P. Science 234, 1383–1385 (1986).

    ADS  CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  31. Fernández, J. A. & Ip, W.-H. Icarus 54, 377–387 (1983).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Shoemaker, E. M. & Wolfe, R. F. Proc. lunar planet. Sci. Conf. 15, 780–781 (1984).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  33. Strom, R. G. Icarus 70, 517–535 (1987).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Thomas, P. J., Brookshaw, L., Chyba, C. F. & Sagan, C. Eos 71, 1429 (1990).

    Google Scholar 

  35. Shoemaker, E. M., Wolfe, R. F. & Shoemaker, C. S. in Global Catastrophes in Earth History (eds Sharpton, V. L. & Ward, P. D.), ESA SP-247, 155–170 (1990).

    Google Scholar 

  36. Grieve, R. A. F. Geol. Soc. Am. Spec. Pap. 190, 25–37 (1982).

    Google Scholar 

  37. Ceplecha, Z. in Comets, Asteroids, and Meteorites (ed. Delsemme, A.) 143–152 (University of Toledo, Toledo, 1977).

    Google Scholar 

  38. Baldwin, B. & Sheaffer, Y. J. geophys. Res. 76, 4653–4668 (1971).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Melosh, H. J. in Multi-ring Basins, Proc. Lunar Planet. Sci. (eds Schultz, P. H. & Merrill, R. B.) 29–35 (Pergamon, New York, 1981).

    Google Scholar 

  40. Love, S. G. & Brownlee, D. E. Icarus 89, 26–43 (1991).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Kyte, F. T. & Wasson, J. T. Science 232, 1225–1229 (1986).

    ADS  CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  42. Hughes, D. W. in Cosmic Dust (ed. McDonnell, J. A. M.), 123–185 (J Wiley, New York, 1978).

    Google Scholar 

  43. Grün, E., Zook, H. A., Fechtig, H. & Giese, R. H. Icarus 62, 244–272 (1985).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Schramm, L. S., Brownlee, D. E. & Wheelock, M. M. Meteoritics 24, 99–112 (1989).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Brownlee, D. E. Annu. Rev. Earth planet. Sci. 13, 189–215 (1985).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Sanford, S. A. & Bradley, J. P. Icarus 82, 146–166 (1989).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Whipple, F. L. Mém. Soc. R. Liège 6eme Série 9, 101–111 (1976).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  48. Greenberg, J. M. in Comets and the Origin of Life (ed. Ponnamperuma, C), 111–127 (Reidel, Dordrecht, 1981).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  49. Gilvarry, J. J. & Hochstim, A. R. Nature 197, 624–625 (1963).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Bar-Nun, A. & Shaviv, A. Icarus 24, 197–210 (1975).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Chameides, W. L. & Walker, J. C. G. Origins Life 11, 291–302 (1981).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Rao, V. V., Mackay, D. & Trass, O. Can. J. chem. Eng 45, 61–66 (1967).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Scattergood et al. Icarus 81, 413–428 (1989).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  54. McKay, C. P., Scattergood, T. W., Pollack, J. B., Borucki, W. J. & Van Ghyseghem, H. T. Nature 332, 520–522 (1988).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Pollack, J. B., Podolak, M., Bodenheimer, P. & Christofferson, B. Icarus 67, 409–443 (1986).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Bronshten, V. A. Physics of Meteoric Phenomena, (Reidel, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, 1983).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  57. Lewis, J. S., Watkins, G. R., Hartman, H. & Prinn, R. G. Geol. Soc. Am. Spec. Pap. 190, 215–221 (1982).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  58. O'Keefe, J. D. & Ahrens, T. J. Geol. Soc. Am. Spec. Pap. 190, 103–120 (1982).

    Google Scholar 

  59. Prinn, R. G. & Fegley, B. Earth planet Sci. Lett. 83, 1–15 (1987).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Zahnle, K. J. in Global Catastrophes in Earth History (eds Sharpton, V. L. & Ward, P. D.), GSA SP-247, 271–288 (1990).

    Google Scholar 

  61. Chyba, C. F. thesis, Cornell Univ. (1991).

  62. Kasting, J. F. Origins Life 20, 199–231 (1990).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Walker, J. C. G. Evolution of the Atmosphere (Macmillan, New York, 1977).

    Google Scholar 

  64. Mukhin, L. M., Gerasimov, M. V. & Safonova, E. N. Nature 340, 46–48 (1989).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  65. McKay, C. P., Borucki, W. R., Kujiro, D. R. & Church, F. Lunar planet. Sci. Conf. XX, 671–672 (1989).

  66. Oberbeck, V. R., McKay, C. P., Scattergood, T. W., Carle, G. C. & Valentin, J. R. Origins Life 19, 39–55 (1989).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Freund, F., Dickinson, J. T., Becker, C. H., Freund, M. M. & Chang, S. Origins Life 16, 291–292 (1986).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  68. Barak, I. & Bar-Nun, A. Origins Life 6, 483–506 (1975).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  69. Schlesinger, G. & Miller, S. L. J. molec. Evol. 19, 376–382 (1983).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  70. Schlesinger, G. & Miller, S. L. J. molec. Evol. 19, 383–390 (1983).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  71. Chyba, C. & Sagan, C. Origins Life 21, 3–17 (1991).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  72. Miller, S. L. & Urey, H. C. Science 130, 245–251 (1959).

    ADS  CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  73. Zahnle, K. J. & Walker, J. C. G. Rev. Geophys. Space Phys. 20, 280–292 (1982).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  74. Canuto, V. M., Levine, J. S., Augustsson, T. R. & Imhoff, C. L. Nature 296, 816–820 (1982).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  75. Heroux, L. & Hinteregger, H. E. J. geophys. Res. 83, 5305–5308 (1978).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  76. Arvesen, J. C., Griffin, R. N. & Pearson, B. D. Appl. Opt. 8, 2215–2232 (1969).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  77. Mount, G. H., Warden, E. S. & Moos, H. W. Astrophys. J. 214, L47–49 (1977).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  78. Ferris, J. P. & Chen, C. T. J. Am. chem. Soc. 97, 2962–2967 (1975).

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  79. Sagan, C. & Khare, B. N. Science 173, 417–420 (1971).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  80. Hong, K.-Y., Hong, J.-H. & Becker, R. S. Science 184, 984–987 (1974).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  81. Pinto, J. P., Galdstone, G. R. & Yung, Y. L. Science 210, 183–185 (1980).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  82. Zahnle, K. J. J. geophsy. Res. 91, 2819–2834 (1986).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  83. Shock, E. O. & Schulte, M. D. Nature 343, 728–731 (1990).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  84. Miller, S. L. & Bada, J. L. Nature 350, 388–389 (1991).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  85. Deamer, D. W. Nature 317, 792–794 (1985).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  86. Tuncel, G. & Zoller, W. H. Nature 329, 703–705 (1987).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  87. Barker, J. L. & Anders, E. Geochim. cosmochim. Acta 32, 627–645 (1968).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  88. Anders, E., Ganapathy, R., Krähenbühl, U. & Morgan, J. W. Moon 8, 3–24 (1973).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  89. Dohnanyi, J. S. Science 173, 558 (1971).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Chyba, C., Sagan, C. Endogenous production, exogenous delivery and impact-shock synthesis of organic molecules: an inventory for the origins of life. Nature 355, 125–132 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1038/355125a0

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/355125a0

This article is cited by

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing