Scientists uncover ancient source of oxygen that could have fueled life on early Earth

Powerful earthquakes that shook Earth some 3.8 billion years ago split open the planet’s crust and allowed chemical reactions to unfold deep within the fractured rock. These reactions, fueled by seismic activity, water and near-boiling temperaturesmay have provided oxygen to some of the world’s earliest life forms, a new study suggests.

This oxygen would have come packaged in the compound hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), which contains two hydrogen atoms and two oxygen atoms bound together, according to the study, published Monday (Aug. 8) in the journal NatureCommunications (opens in new tab). Perhaps best known as an antiseptic, hydrogen peroxide can, of course, be toxic to living organisms, but it can still be a useful oxygen source once broken down by enzymes or by reactions that occur under high heat, Jon Telling, the study’s senior author and a senior lecturer in geochemistry and geomicrobiology at Newcastle University in the UK, told Live Science.

Leave a Comment