[Comment on “Submarine hot springs: Origin of life?”] Hydrothermal vents revisited



It was gratifying to read Peter Bell's synopsis of our paper [Corliss et al., 1981] in the March 23 issue of Eos (Submarine hot springs: Origin of life?) however, in the last sentence, he wrote, ‘They note that microorganisms found in recent expeditions to the submarine hot springs of the East Pacific Rise would be evidence that the processes are still occurring.’

In our final paragraph we actually said that while “events leading to the formation of complex organic compounds and “protocell” structures may still be occurring in present-day oceanic hydrothermal systems … the complex communities of bacteria in modern oceanic environments would outcompete and consume abiotically synthesized protocells…” Modern-day vent microbiota will probably mask or destroy any evidence for abiotic synthesis in the hydrothermal vents.