Resources: Life Origin

These resources provide excellent information on the complex subject of how life originated on Earth. The titles are selected to accommodate all levels of knowledge of the subject.

General Information Websites

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Articles and Research Summaries



Exploring life origins:understanding the RNA world Origins Timeline and Videos

Articles and Research Summaries

Fungi can tell us about the origin of sex chromosomes

New Glimpses of Life’s Puzzling Origins -

Early Life On Earth: Could Salt Crusts Be Key Ingredient In Cooking Up Prebiotic Molecules?

Origin of life: Adding UV light helps form ‘Missing G’ of RNA building blocks

Pre-history of life: Elegantly simple organizing principles seen in ribosomes

Scientists create tiny RNA molecule with big implications for life’s origins

How Did Life Begin? RNA That Replicates Itself Indefinitely Developed For First Time

Rules governing RNA’s anatomy revealed

Life Could Have Evolved in Armoured Clay Bubbles - Technology Review

Heat helped hasten life’s beginnings on Earth, research suggests

Researchers kick-start ancient DNA

Phosphorus identified as the missing link in evolution of animals

Origin of life on Earth: ‘Natural’ asymmetry of biological molecules may have come from space

What is life? New answers to an age-old question in astrobiology

Glimpse of how the ‘code’ of life may have emerged

Clues in clay | Harvard Gazette

Scientists Close to Reconstructing First Living Cell (Dr. Ricardo Alonso & Jack Szostak, Szostak Lab, Harvard Univ)

New Glimpses of Life’s Puzzling Origins (by Nicholas Wade) NYT Science Times section 6/16/09:

Exploring the New RNA World (Thomas Cech, Nobel in Chemistry)

The blurry line between life,nonlife -Boston Globe

Life began in a flash, science takes four billion years to catch up: Scientific American Blog

Artificial Genetics: New Type Of DNA Has 12 Chemical Letters Instead Of Usual 4 (Benner Lab

Synthetic biology yields clues to evolution and the origin of life

Chemists edge closer to recreating early life (Scripps Research Inst)

Scientists develop first examples of RNA that replicates itself indefinitely

Artificial cells, simple model for complex structure

Evolution in a test tube: scientists make molecules that evolve and compete, mimicking behavior of Darwin’s finches

Chemists create bipedal, autonomous DNA walker

Life at Blood Falls Astrobiology Magazine 4/21/09 (NASA website). Viroids:molecular vestiges of the RNA world Mass extinctions:ancient viruses may hold clues to life origins New details about mysterious giant virus uncovered Origin of life on Earth:simple fusion to jump-start evolution Life origins were easier than was thought Asteroid attack 4 billion years ago may have accelerated life on Earth Astronomer to search space for precursors of life Michigan astronomer to search in space for precursors of life First direct observations of biological particles in high-altitude ice clouds We owe it all to comets Did comets contain key ingredients for life on Earth Pre-life molecules present in comets Does prebiotic material exist in outer space Did life begin in space? New evidence from comets Two highly complex organic molecules detected in space Researchers discover two highly complex organic molecules detected in space Deep-sea rocks point to early oxygen on Earth Origins of sulfur in rocks tells early oxygen story New link between the evolution of complex life forms on Earth and nickel and methane gas Molecular midwives hold clues to the origin of life The mother of all enzymes RNA world Scientists hope to unlock mysteries of proteins New chemical reaction for DNA production in bacteria and viruses discovered Groundbreaking study reveals intermediary steps of genetic encoding for the first time Evolutionary origin of bacterial chromosomes revealed Researchers shake up scientific theory on motor protein Researchers study signaling networks that set up genetic code Discovering the secret code behind photosynthesis How microRNAs block protein synthesis Scientists uncover new class of non-protein coding genes in mammals with key functions Junk DNA has important role, researchers find Scientists deconstruct cell division Scientists give a hand(edness) to the search for alien life The search for unusual alien life on Earth and life that can survive on Mars Life in the universe, almost certainly. Intelligence, maybe not


Hazen, Robert W. 2005. Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life’s Origin. Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press. (geochemistry orientation)

Knoll, Andrew H. 2005 (2003). Life on a young planet: the first three billion years of evolution on Earth. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ Press

Mason, Stephen F. 1992. Chemical Evolution: Origin of the Elements, Molecules, and Living Systems. Oxford:Clarendon Press; NY: Oxford Univ Press

Morowitz, H.J. 1992. Beginnings of Cellular Life. New Haven:Yale Univ Press Plaxco, Kevin W. and Michael Gross. 2006. Astrobiology: a brief introduction. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ Press

Rensberger, Boyce. 1999. Life itself: exploring the realm of the living cell. Oxford: Oxford Univ Press

Rohlfing, Duane L. and A.I. Oparin (Eds). 1972. Molecular evolution: prebiological and biological. NY: Plenum Press. Oparin is the originator of the theory (in 1920s) that life originated from ordinary chemical processes in a reducing atmosphere on the early Earth.

Schopf, William J. (Ed). 1983. Earth’s earliest biosphere: its origin and evolution. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton Univ Press. (standard –and very technical–reference for geochemical processes)

Thomas, P.J., Chyba, C.F., & McKay, C.P. (Eds). (1997) Comets and the Origin and Evolution of Life. NY: Springer. * Technical but excellent resource

Zubay, Geoffrey L. 1996. Origins of Life on the Earth and in the Cosmos. Dubuque, IA : Wm. C. Brown Pub.