Life on Earth can grow on extraterrestrial organic carbonOPEN ACCESS 

Annemiek C. Waajen, Cassio Lima, Royston Goodacre & Charles S. Cockell

Scientific Reports, Volume 14, Article number: 3691


“The universe is a vast store of organic abiotic carbon that could potentially drive heterotrophy on habitable planets. Meteorites are one of the transporters of this carbon to planetary surfaces. Meteoritic material was accumulating on early Earth when life emerged and proliferated. Yet it is not known if this organic carbon from space was accessible to life. In this research, an anaerobic microbial community was grown with the CM2 carbonaceous chondrite Aguas Zarcas as the sole carbon, energy and nutrient source. Using a reversed 13C-stable isotope labelling experiment in combination with optical photothermal infrared (O-PTIR) spectroscopy of single cells, this paper demonstrates the direct transfer of carbon from meteorite into microbial biomass. This implies that meteoritic organics could have been used as a carbon source on early Earth and other habitable planets, and supports the potential for a heterotrophic metabolism in early living systems.”