The Origin of Life?

Primordial life may have emerged from environments similar to those observed in modern deep-sea hydrothermal vents!

A remotely-operated vehicle takes a sample from an undersea vent site.

A remotely-operated vehicle takes a sample from an undersea vent site.

The contents of the hydrothermal fluids may mimic the conditions of ancient Earth. These fluids are hot and contain gases such as hydrogen sulphide, carbon monoxide and methane, and metals such as copper and arsenic – which can be toxic to humans – and very low concentrations of oxygen. Yet highly specialised microorganisms, known as extremophiles, actively grow in this harsh environment

Extremophiles also occur in the on-land hot springs of New Zealand. Watch a video here

By studying microorganisms inhabiting active hydrothermal vents, it may be possible to gain insights into the origin of life, and to predict what kind of life might exist on other planets.

Extremophiles also have potential for use in medical research and pharmacy, and for biotechnology applications.

Find out more about Extremophiles.