Complex molecules such as the one pictured here came together to form coacervates
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In the warm primordial ocean, aggregates of amino acids, proteins, and other hydrocarbons coalesced into a form called *coacervates*
. Organic polymers such as amino acids will spontaneously form coacervates in the same way that beads of vinegar in oil coalesce together. The Miller-Urey
experiment showed that amino acids form under conditions similar to the Earth's primordial environment
These beads, or coacervates are perhaps the simplest of systems that, without a membrane, can be said to be bound together; that is they have a distinct inside and outside. An ocean provides an ideal substrate for their formation, for the primordial ocean was large, and water can hold the coacervates suspended, allowing them to be undisturbed, for a long period of time.
It is not known whether these coacervates were life-like or not. Recall that life must be able to feed and reproduce itself.
The earliest life was probably much like coacervates, and scientists think that this earliest life probably was chemo-heterotrophic, meaning that they used a chemical process called enzymatic catalysis to process naturally produced organic compounds from the early ocean for food.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!Traveling Nitrogen
is a fun group game appropriate for the classroom. Players follow nitrogen atoms through living and nonliving parts of the nitrogen cycle. For grades 5-9.
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