London, Oct 28: It is one of the least densely populated countries in the world, but scientists say that Greenland was the birthplace of life, reports The Daily Mail.
A team of researchers studied mud volcanoes in Isua, a region in south-west Greenland.
They believe they erupted 3.8 billion years ago, forcing certain elements up to the surface which were crucial in the formation of biomolecules – the building blocks of life.
It was previously thought that the first living creatures evolved in geysers – underwater volcanoes which spewed out hydrogen, methane and other gases which produced an environment favourable to life.
But scientists now argue that these were actually too acidic for life to form and have been searching for alternatives.
The team from the Laboratory of Geology in Lyon, France, looked at mineral deposits on some of the oldest rocks in the world and found the mineral serpentinite – which is key to life – had formed when sea water hit the Earth's crust.
They also say the conditions in Greenland were rich in carbonates, not too acidic, and temperatures would have ranged from 100 to 300 degrees centigrade.
This produced ideal conditions for protein molecules to evolve into single-cell organisms, according to the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
These are the simplest forms of life which would, over millions of years, evolve into multi-cell organisms, and eventually into birds, mammals and humans.
Lead researcher Marie-Laure Pons said: ‘The mud volcanoes at Isua thus represent a particularly favourable setting for the emergence of primitive terrestrial life.'
The paper does not change the narrative of where humans came from – evidence suggests they first evolved from Neanderthals in the cradle of Africa 200,000 years ago and gradually made their way across the world.
Reacting to the study, Dr Simon Underdown, an evolutionary biologist at Oxford Brookes University said: "We know so little about the origins of life four billion years ago, and if this is right it means early life formed with very little water, which is interesting in terms of life that may be found on other planets."
But this may not have been the only site at which life formed, as there may have been several, some of which later died out.