Lost Nucleotides

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Although Alexander S. Bradley's article "Expanding the Limits of Life" provides a fascinating account of the discovery of microbes in a previously unknown kind of hydrothermal vent ecosystem on the seafloor, it does not substantiate his claim that the findings hint that life may have originated in an environment like the Lost City hydrothermal vent.

Bradley suggests that Lost City produces "small organic acids such as formate and acetate" and that similar vents might have produced "simple organic acids" and "even more complex fatty acids" or "at least simple organic compounds." Such statements do not begin to address the conditions and processes that led to the assembly of the nucleotides--adenine, guanine, cytosine, thymine and uracil--nor do the statements indicate that the materials necessary to form the nucleotides might be present in hydrothermal vents.

Studies of life in hydrothermal vents and of the chemistry of hydrothermal vents have provided no information about the evolution of RNA and DNA and of their nucleotides from inorganic and simple organic molecules.

PHOTO (COLOR): DECEMBER 2009

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By Richard A. Ely, Dallas, Tex.

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