International Journal of Astrobiology

Research Article

Panspermia in the context of the timing of the origin of life and microbial phylogeny

M.A. Linea1

a1 School of Agricultural Science, Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Science, Private Bag 54, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia e-mail: martin.line@utas.edu.au

Abstract

The synthesis of physical information on early Earth (or Mars) with recent knowledge arising from microbial genomic, proteomic and phylogenetic studies, strongly indicates that there was insufficient time (∼600 000 years) for life to arise and evolve to reach the biochemical complexity evident within the Last Common Community (LCC). If recent strong evidence of fossil cyanobacteria in carbonaceous meteorites is accepted, then the LCC would have existed prior to the origin of life on Earth and the planet would then have been seeded with representatives of the three domains once it became habitable. The existence of intermittently active cyanobacteria in comets opens the possibility for the evolution of microaerobic bacterial metabolism, elements of which appear at a deep level of the microbial phylogeny, at or below the depth of the LCC. It is also notable from a panspermia perspective that recent phylogenetic evidence indicates that the Gram-positive lineage (representatives of which are endowed with long-lived radiation-resistant spores) lies at the deepest level of domain Bacteria, with Archaea and Eukarya evolving from this lineage probably before 3.6 Gigayears ago (Gya).

(Received April 04 2007)

(Accepted May 18 2007)

(Online publication July 09 2007)