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Devoted to exploring questions about the origin and evolution of life in our Universe, this highly interdisciplinary book brings together a broad array of scientists. Thirty chapters assembled in eight major sections convey the knowledge accumulated and the richness of the debates generated by this challenging theme. The text explores the latest research on the conditions and processes that led to the emergence of life on Earth and, by extension, perhaps on other planetary bodies. Diverse sources of knowledge are integrated, from astronomical and geophysical data, to the role of water, the origin of minimal life properties and the oldest traces of biological activity on our planet. This text will not only appeal to graduate students but to the large body of scientists interested in the challenges presented by the origin of life, its evolution, and its possible existence beyond Earth.
Part I. What Is Life?
1. Problems raised by a definition of life M. Morange
2. Some remarks about uses of cosmological anthropic 'principles' D. Lambert
3. Minimal cell: the biologist point of view C. Brochier-Armanet
4. Minimal cell: the computer scientist point of view H. Bersini
5. Origins of life: computing and simulation approaches B. Billoud
Part II. Astronomical and Geophysical Context of the Emergence of Life
6. Organic molecules in interstellar medium C. Ceccarelli and C. Cernicharo
7. Cosmochemical evolution and the origin of life: insights from meteorites S. Pizzarello
8. Astronomical constraints on the emergence of life M. Gounelle and T. Montmerle
9. Formation of habitable planets J. Chambers
10. The concept of galactic habitable zone N. Prantzos
11. The young Sun and its influence on planetary atmospheres M. Gudel and J. Kasting
12. Climates of the Earth G. Ramstein
Part III. Role of Water in the Emergence of Life
13. Liquid water: a necessary condition to all forms of life K. Bartik, G. Bruylants, E. Locci and J. Reisse
14. The role of water in the formation and evolution of planets T. Encrenaz
15. Water on Mars J. P. Bibring
Part IV. From Non-Living Systems to Life
16. Energetic constraints on prebiotic pathways: application to the emergence of translation R. Pascal and L. Boiteau
17. Comparative genomics and early cell evolution A. Lazcano
18. Origin and evolution of metabolisms J. Pereto
Part V. Mechanisms for Life Evolution
19. Molecular phylogeny: inferring the patterns of evolution E. Douzery
20. Horizontal gene transfer: mechanisms and evolutionary consequences D. Moreira
21. The role of symbiosis in eukaryotic evolution A. Latorre, A. Durban, A. Moya and J. Pereto
Part VI. Life in Extreme Conditions
22. Life in extreme conditions: Deinococcus radiodurans, an organism able to survive prolonged desiccation and high doses of ionising radiation S. Sommer and M. Toueille
23. Molecular effects of UV and ionizing radiations on DNA J. Cadet and T. Douki
24. Molecular adaptations to life at high salt: lessons from Haloarcula marismortui G. Zaccai
Part VII. Traces of Life and Biosignatures
25. Early life: nature, distribution and evolution F. Westall
26. Early eukaryotes in precambrian oceans E. Javaux
27. Biomineralisation mechanisms K. Benzerara and J. Miot
28. Limits of life and biosphere: lesson from detection of microorganisms in deep sea and deep subsurface in the Earth K. Takai
Part VIII. Life Elsewhere?
29. Titan and the Cassini-Huygens mission J. Lunine and F. Raulin
30. The role of terrestrial analogue environments in astrobiology R. Leveille
Muriel Gargaud is a research scientist at the Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Bordeaux, CNRS-Universite Bordeaux 1, and is vice-president of the Societe Francaise d'Exobiologie, which is associated with the NASA Astrobiology Institute.
Purificación López-García is a research director at the CNRS, Universite Paris-Sud, and leads a research team exploring microbial diversity and evolution in different ecosystems, including extreme environments.
Hervé Martin is Professor at the Laboratoire Magmas et Volcans at the Universite Blaise Pascal in Clermont-Ferrand. He has been in charge of several international research programs on the geochemistry and geodynamic processes on early Earth.