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2018-09-17. How Did Life Learn to Breathe?

posted Sep 22, 2018, 5:10 PM by Alan Gould   [ updated Sep 22, 2018, 5:11 PM ]
By Lucas Joel, Eos/AGU. [https://eos.org/articles/how-did-life-learn-to-breathe] For GSS Life and Climate chapter 4. Excerpt: Life, as far as we know, has existed on Earth for about 3.5 billion years. At some point early on in that history, living things evolved the ability to breathe oxygen. What factors opened the door for this evolution? The answers have been hazy, but in new research, geoscientists may have unearthed a key piece of the puzzle: Nitrous oxide (N2O), more popularly known as laughing gas, once made up a significant part of Earth’s atmosphere. This gas helped lay the groundwork for organisms to eventually evolve the ability to breathe oxygen, researchers hypothesize. It’s likely that “life respired other things, like nitrous oxide, before oxygen,” said Jennifer Glass, a biogeochemist at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta who led the new work. Although scientists had suspected this before, through Glass’s and her team’s research, we now have a mechanism for how nitrous oxide could have first existed in the ancient atmosphere. And in clearing the air surrounding the oxygen breathing mystery, the current research also helps solve another geological riddle: the “faint young Sun paradox.”...