Conditions of Early Life on Earth Suggest Aliens Could Survive on Frozen Moons Like Europa and Titan

Monday, 26 March 2018 - 11:30AM
Alien Life
Europa
Space
Monday, 26 March 2018 - 11:30AM
Conditions of Early Life on Earth Suggest Aliens Could Survive on Frozen Moons Like Europa and Titan
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Image credit: YouTube/Outer Places
One of the biggest points of speculation surrounding exploration of our own solar system is whether or not many of the frozen, icy moons surrounding our more gaseous planets might be capable of supporting life.

Jupiter's moon Europa, and Saturn's Titan, often come up as examples of worlds that—at least in theory—look a lot like our own planet. If we're lucky, further exploration of these moons might just uncover alien life in some form or other.

A nice piece of evidence to support this line of thinking comes in the form of our own ancestors. Studies into both the first living organisms on Earth and the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA), from which all other life grew, suggests that over the first few generations of life on our planet, tiny fledgling life forms had to deal with intense weather conditions.

It's believed that when life first started on Earth, our planet probably looked an awful lot like Titan or Europa: it was covered in frozen water ice thanks to a relatively weak sun that hadn't yet burst forth into its full blazing glory. The sun warmed up over eons as it grew older, and as this happened, life on Earth went from experiencing a cold, frigid climate to embracing warmer seas. The ice melted and the earliest creatures on the planet were able to thrive in a new environment.



This adaptability proved important to the future of our planet's colonization, as creatures were able to spread out and evolve to fill millions upon millions of specific niches around the entire world.

According to Greg Fournier, an evolutionary biologist at MIT:

Opening quote
"Encountering such environmental variability early on may be necessary to build up the level of complexity needed for LUCA to have the evolutionary potential to continue to diversify and colonize nearly every habitat on Earth over four billion years."
Closing quote


If this is the case, then when we look over at Titan or Europa, or, indeed, any other planet or moon that's surrounded by a cold layer of ice, we could be observing the home of tiny, simple life forms that, in spite of their harsh environment, are growing and spreading just fine.

There are many theories surrounding the idea of life on frozen worlds—some scientists even believe that these planets could play host to intelligent, sentient creatures, but that we'd never be able to spot them because they'd be buried under the ice.

Nevertheless, missions exist that will aim to uncover any creatures that might exist on Europa or Titan, even if they are a few years away from completion. We might one day get positive confirmation of the existence of simple alien life forms, provided that we get lucky on some of these missions, and also assuming that there is actually life to be found elsewhere in the solar system.

In the meantime, all we can do is hope for the best. With any luck we might not be alone in the universe—even if our closest neighbors are somewhat lower down on the evolutionary ladder at present.
Encountering such environmental variability early on may be necessary to build up the level of complexity needed for LUCA to have the evolutionary potential to continue to diversify and colonize nearly every habitat on Earth over four billion years

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-03-early-life-evolutionary-power-survive.html#jCp
Science
Earth
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