The Origin & History of Life on Earth

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When did Life Begin?

Our earth is about 4.5 billion years old. Scientists have estimated that life first appeared on earth about 3.5 billion years ago. They know this from the discovery of fossils dating back to that time. So far, earth is the only place known to harbor life in the entire Universe. Our planet, our life is so unique, so precious!

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How Did Life Begin?

All the chemical elements that make up living things are also present in all non-living matters. These most common elements are carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur. Scientists, therefore, believe that life originated from non-living matter through a series of natural processes under some specific chemical and physical conditions that existed early in the history of the earth. These chemical and physical conditions include sunlight, atmospheric gases, the presence of water, and the occurrence of lightning and volcanos.

These processes at first created simple single-celled organisms, which then went on to create more complex organisms and then further on to create all species that we know and see on earth today. We have all come into existence starting with a simple single-celled organism!

Charting the History of Life

Geologists and paleontologists study the history of earth and of life on earth. Geologists study rocks and determine their age. Paleontologists study fossils found in rocks anddetermine the times at which they existed on earth. Together, they provide the timeline of history of life on earth in terms of Eons, Eras, Periods, Epochs, and Ages. (See also: Geologic Time)

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What is Evolution?

Evolution is the gradual change in the formation and development of life on our planet. All living things evolved from the earliest forms of matter billions of years ago. These living things also gradually changed over time. This process of change is referred to as evolution. It is the process by which all organisms descended from some common ancient ancestors.

Check Point

  1. Life first appeared on earth about _______ years ago.
  2. Scientists believe that life first originated from _______.
  3. Which of these chemical and physical conditions existed for life to form?
    1. Sunlight
    2. Atmospheric gases
    3. Water
    4. Lightning and volcanos
    5. All of the above
  4. The study of _______ and _______ determine the timeline of the history of life on earth.
  5. The process of gradual change in the formation and development of life on our planet is known as _______.

Answer Key

  1. 5 billion
  2. Non-living matter
  3. e) All of the above
  4. Rocks, Fossils
  5. Evolution

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