The Origin of Life

A Source of Mineral-rich Solutions

In addition to the principal ingredients of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and phosphorus, living organisms also utilise a vast array of trace metals such as Fe, Mg, Zn, Ni, Mo, Cu, Se. Hydrothermal vent solutions are derived from hot ocean water filtering through the basalts of the ocean floor (see http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/vents/chemocean.html). In the process of flowing through ocean-floor basalt the hot water solutions dissolve from the basalts small amounts of metals. This process, known as leaching, gives rise to metal-rich solutions which vent onto the ocean floor. In some circumstances they create metal-rich mineral deposits, but in addition these metal rich solutions can become the nutrients for living organisms. It is in this nutrient-rich environment that organic molecules with specific metal contents may have first been manufactured. For example, Rubisco — the catalyst which is at the core of photosynthesis incorporates at its heart iron sulphide (FeS), a mineral which is common at oceanic hydrothermal springs.