Where Does The Oxygen We Breathe Come From? The “Mortal Poison” That Gives Life Today

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Earth has not always been the hospitable and wonderful paradise that we all know. A test can be sought in the extreme hellish conditions of the primordial Earth. In addition to water, oxygen in the atmosphere is another of the fundamental elements for complex life. But, exactly, where does the oxygen we breathe come from?

This gas, vital for life on Earth, today represents about 21% of the atmospheric content, but it has not always been so abundant. Back to 4.6 billion years ago, we will not find the florid blue planet that we all know, but a cluster of turbulence, whose atmosphere was formed by a mixture of gas similar to that erupted by today’s volcanoes and therefore saturated with

It was a tumultuous and extremely violent period, during which the Earth was besaged by cosmic objects that fed the extreme conditions of the planet, warming the earth’s surface and, consequently, the atmosphere itself, which remained in a state of

But, as not everything that is now shines, at the same time not all evils come to harm. In fact, the continuous influx of cosmic materials from the solar system has provided a large storage of gas and elements, including nitrogen and ammonia.

The phenomena that have led to a stabilization of earthly conditions are not entirely clear, but we know that about 4.3 billion years ago the Earth began to cool down and the cataclysm of cosmic material has greatly reduced.

In conjunction with these favourable events, the water basins, suffering less evaporation phenomena, began to group, allowing the establishment of geochemical reactions, with some hints of the first biochemical reactions. These events have modified the content of the Earth’s atmosphere, saturated with carbon dioxide and nitrogen.

In this era it was possible to witness sporadic influxes of oxygen, through volcanic eruptions and the clumsy attempt of the first photosynthetic organisms that populated the seas, but the half-life of the gas was very short, due to the tendency of In relation to this atmospheric element, a study has tried to speculate as long as oxygen on Earth may last.

Only 2.4 billion years ago, thanks to the slow and inexorable occurrence of exogenous and biological events, it was possible to ascertain a significant accumulation of oxygen in the atmosphere, which led to the phenomenon known as the Great Oxygenation Event But it was not good news for anaerobic organisms that populated the Earth.

The impact of this event, also known as the oxygen catastrophe, on the biosphere was destructive and led to the mass extinction of anaerobic life forms. These organisms, in fact, unlike today’s complex life forms that have developed specialized enzymes to interact with oxygen, were not ready for such saturation by the gas, lacking the necessary adaptations to the survival.

A ‘liveable’ amount of molecular oxygen, representing about 21% of atmospheric gases, was established only 600 million years ago, an era of earth’s history that (on chance) coincides with the development of complex living beings.

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