The interplanetary exchange of photosynthesis

Cockell, Charles S. (2008). The interplanetary exchange of photosynthesis. Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres, 38(1) pp. 87–104.




Panspermia, the transfer of organisms from one planet to another, either through interplanetary or interstellar space, remains speculation. However, its potential can be experimentally tested. Conceptually, it is island biogeography on an interplanetary or interstellar scale. Of special interest is the possibility of the transfer of oxygenic photosynthesis between one planet and another, as it can initiate large scale biospheric productivity. Photosynthetic organisms, which must live near the surface of rocks, can be shown experimentally to be subject to destruction during atmospheric transit. Many of them grow as vegetative cells, which are shown experimentally to be susceptible to destruction by shock during impact ejection, although the effectiveness of this dispersal filter can be shown to be mitigated by the characteristics of the cells and their local environment. Collectively these, and other, experiments reveal the particular barriers to the cross-inoculation of photosynthesis. If oxygen biosignatures are eventually found in the atmospheres of extrasolar planets, understanding the potential for the interplanetary exchange of photosynthesis will aid in their interpretation.

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