Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Green Rust: The Simple Organizing ‘Seed’ of All Life?

Version 1 : Received: 6 August 2018 / Approved: 6 August 2018 / Online: 6 August 2018 (05:19:46 CEST)

How to cite: Russell, M.J. Green Rust: The Simple Organizing ‘Seed’ of All Life? . Preprints 2018, 2018080096. Russell, M.J. Green Rust: The Simple Organizing ‘Seed’ of All Life? . Preprints 2018, 2018080096.


Korenaga and coworkers present evidence to suggest that 4.3 billion years ago the Earth’s mantle was dry and water filled the ocean to twice its present volume.[2] CO2 was constantly exhaled during the mafic to ultramafic volcanic activity associated with magmatic plumes that produced the thick, dense and relatively stable oceanic crust. In that setting two distinct major types of sub-marine hydrothermal vents were active: ~400 °C acidic springs whose effluents bore vast quantities of iron into the ocean, and ~120 °C, highly alkaline and reduced vents exhaling from the cooler, serpentinizing crust at some distance from the heads of the plumes. When encountering the alkaline effluents, the iron from the plume head vents precipitated out forming mounds likely surrounded by voluminous exhalative deposits similar to the banded iron formations known from the Archean. These mounds and the surrounding sediments likely comprising nanocrysts of the variable valence FeII/FeIII oxyhydroxide, green rust. The precipitation of green rust, along with subsidiary iron sulfides and minor concentrations of Ni, Co and Mo in the environment at the alkaline springs may have established both the key bio-syntonic disequilibria, and the means to properly make use of them – those needed to drive the essential inanimate-to-animate transitions that launched life. In the submarine alkaline vent model for the emergence of life specifically it is first suggested that the redox-flexible green rust microcrysts spontaneously formed precipitated barriers to the complete mixing of carbonic ocean and alkaline hydrothermal fluids, barriers that created and maintained steep ionic disequilibria; and second, that the hydrous interlayers of green rust acted as 'engines' that were powered by those ionic disequilibria and drove essential endergonic reactions. There, aided by sulfides and trace elements acting as catalytic promoters and electron transfer agents, nitrate could be reduced to ammonia and carbon dioxide to formate, while methane may have been oxidized to methyl and formyl groups. Acetate and higher carboxylic acids could then have been produced from these C1 molecules and aminated to amino acids, and thence oligomerized to offer peptide nests to phosphate and iron sulfides and secreted to form primitive amyloid-bounded structures, leading conceivably to protocells.


Hadean; carbonic ocean; mantle plumes; Banded Iron Formation; green rust; submarine alkaline vents; emergence of life


Environmental and Earth Sciences, Geography

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