An ancient source of oxygen was found in the cracks in the earth's crust, in which life originated.

Researchers from the University of Newcastle found that in tectonic faults of mountain minerals during

Under certain conditions, hydrogen peroxide and, as a result, oxygen can occur. The discovery explains the presence in the “ancient ancestor of all living things” of the gene responsible for the cycle of H2O2 and O2.

In tectonically active regions, the movement of the earthThe crust not only causes earthquakes, but also permeates the subsoil with cracks and faults lined with highly reactive rock surfaces containing many imperfections or defects. Water falling on such irregularities reacts with the freshly destroyed rock. As a result of this process, hydrogen peroxide is formed, the scientists explain.

The researchers modeled such conditions inlaboratories. To do this, they crushed into pieces granite, basalt and peridotite - rocks that were present in the early earth's crust. To the destroyed rocks in oxygen-free conditions, scientists added water. Experiments have shown that when water is heated to a temperature close to the boiling point (above 80 °C), a large amount of hydrogen peroxide is formed on the surface of materials.

At temperatures up to 80°C, hydrogen is formed on the surface of the faults, and at high temperatures, hydrogen peroxide. Image: Jordan Stone et al., Nature Communications

Although high concentrations of hydrogen peroxidecan be life-threatening, it is a useful source of oxygen for microbes. Geologists note that the conditions of the experiment, in which a large amount of hydrogen peroxide was released, corresponded to conditions on the early Earth. There were the necessary materials, water and temperature. At the same time, high temperatures correspond to the habitual habitat of a number of hyperthermal microbes, including the first oxygen organisms at the beginning of evolution.

Genomic reconstructions of the common ancestor of all living thingsidentified genes involved in the circulation of H2O2 and O2, the authors note. They believe that hydrothermal faults, in which hydrogen peroxide was formed, influenced the origin of life on Earth.

The evolution of life and oxygen. Image: Newcastle University

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