Answer to "Guess What Species?"
Yesterday’s puzzler was to guess the species being talked about here:
One became super efficient at gobbling up its food, doing so at a rate that was about a hundred times faster than the other. The other was slower at acquiring food, but produced about three times more progeny per generation.
The answer is…
RNA molecules which self-catalyze and evolve in the lab. This gets us one step closer to being able to show how life could have emerged on Earth without any endogenous materials (e.g. asteroids crashing into Earth carrying DNA).
I’ve never understood why such “exogenous origins” theories are popular since they seem like a pseudo-creationist punt rather than a truly scientific view. Sure, DNA could have come from outer space. But Stuart Kauffman showed years ago how — conceptually speaking — autocatalysis and cross-catalytic reactions could yield self-replicating molecules. Now all that’s left is setting up the right initial conditions to show the existence proof. No aliens — or god(s) — necessary.