Ecosystem Emergence: The Role of Affinity-Bias in Pre-biotic Systems
National Council for Science and the Environment
Last modified: June 13, 2007
Currently, there are several competing conceptual frameworks that attempt at modeling the origin of life in pre-biotic systems - the RNA world, the Lipid world, the Small Molecule world, the Metabolism-first world, etc. In this paper, a new model will be presented that tries to incorporate elements of each of the above schemes, while at the same time introducing some novel features that may help in elucidating the structure-function relationships of pre-biotic systems. The guiding principle of such an ecosystem approach is the assumption that life arose as an interactive network of prototypical entities consisting of pre-biotic lipid micelles and vesicles, short-chain polypeptides, multifunctional RNA-like structures, and an array of small molecules and key ‘metabolites’. Rather than viewing such a scheme in a step-wise chronological and hierarchical manner, the model is built as an emergent system whereby underlying affinity-biases of physical and chemical forces allow the selection of a complex web of structure-function interactions at an early stage of pre-biotic ‘evolution’. Reference will be made to the use of affinity-bias analysis - a mathematical tool that demonstrates how highly complex structures may arise in a stochastic system in surprisingly few number of steps.