OPEN Nature communications | 18 Mar 2021
BL Hess, S Piazolo and J Harvey
When hydrated, phosphides such as the mineral schreibersite, (Fe,Ni)3P, allow for the synthesis of important phosphorus-bearing organic compounds. Such phosphides are common accessory minerals in meteorites; consequently, meteorites are proposed to be a main source of prebiotic reactive phosphorus on early Earth. Here, we propose an alternative source for widespread phosphorus reduction, arguing that lightning strikes on early Earth potentially formed 10-1000 kg of phosphide and 100-10,000 kg of phosphite and hypophosphite annually. Therefore, lightning could have been a significant source of prebiotic, reactive phosphorus which would have been concentrated on landmasses in tropical regions. Lightning strikes could likewise provide a continual source of prebiotic reactive phosphorus independent of meteorite flux on other Earth-like planets, potentially facilitating the emergence of terrestrial life indefinitely.
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