London, July 14 (ANI): In a new research, scientists have determined that early life in the form of microbes may have relied on lightning to cook their dinner.
When lightning strikes sand or sediment, the path followed by the bolt can fuse into a glassy tube called a fulgurite.
According to a report in New Scientist, a new analysis of these remnants suggests that lightning fries the nutrient phosphorus into a more digestible form.
Most phosphorus on Earth exists as oxidised phosphate, but many microbes prefer a rarer, partially oxidised phosphorus - phosphite.
Matthew Pasek and Kristin Block of the University of Arizona, Tucson, used an MRI scanner on 10 fulgurites and found that five contained phosphite.
The surrounding soil only contained phosphate.
They suggest that the high energy of a lightning strike strips an oxygen atom from phosphate compounds, creating phosphites.
"Early life may have used phosphite to form its key biomolecules, like RNA and DNA," said Pasek.
Today, anthropogenic influences such as steel corrosion, provide the primary source of phosphites in the environment, but prior to anthropogenic input, Pasek and Block believe lightning would have been the main source, producing up to 3000 kilograms of phosphites per year. (ANI)