Planetary scientists at MIT and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics estimate that so-called sulfidic anions may have been abundant in Earth’s lakes and rivers.
They calculate that, about 3.9 billion years ago, erupting volcanoes emitted huge amounts of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, which eventually settled and dissolved in the water as sulfur anions, specifically sulphites and bisulfites. These molecules probably had the opportunity to accumulate in shallow waters such as lakes and rivers.
“In shallow lakes, we found that these molecules would have been an inevitable part of the environment,” says Sukrit Ranjan, a postdoc in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at MIT. “If we are at the origin of life is something that we are trying to solve,” he adds. Ranjan and his colleagues publish their results in the magazine ‘Astrobiology’.