A news report from Yale University this week reports on new findings from Earth scientists Jun Korenaga of Yale University and Juan Carlos Rosas of the Ensenada Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education in Mexico. The research suggests small islands initially appearing in the Earth's ancient oceans may hold the keys to the beginnings of life.

Originally published in the in the Jan. 4 online edition of the journal Nature Geoscience, The model developed by the researchers described a theoretical topography of the Earth's sea floor, which ranged from 4,000 to 2,500 million years ago.

Their model finds that some current geophysical cycles could have prevented a larger amount of internal heating in the Earth's mantle than what occurs today, causing a shallowing of ocean basins in certain areas of the globe. In this case, the researchers said, for hundreds of millions of years, volcanic island chains and oceanic plateaus may have persisted above sea level.

Ang Thong Marine Park, Thailand
Photo by Nathan Boadle / Unsplash

“This is a very exciting finding for solid Earth science as well as prebiotic chemistry,” said Korenaga. "My earlier collaboration with Jeffrey Bada, a world expert on prebiotic chemistry at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, tempted me to look into the influence of this well-known fact of sea-floor topography in the past, which had never been explored before."

The interior heating of the Planet results from the oxidation of radioactive elements, such as uranium. Since these items vanish over time, during the Archeon Eon there may have been more of them. Korenaga said this would mean that in the past there had been better internal heating.

The authors hope those clues will resolve some of the mysteries that exist at the bottom of the ocean and on the surface, helping us to further understand the origins of life.