Resources for the 2008 Darwin Day Symposium

"Origins and Evolution of Early Life"

Page Contents:

Suggested Background Reading

General Information

For Educators

For Students

For Researchers

Suggested Background Reading

For the topic of defining life, Carol Cleland recommends:

  • Cleland, C. E. & Copley, S. D. (2005). The possibility of alternative microbial life on Earth, International Journal of Astrobiology 4, 165-173.
  • Cleland, C. E. (2007). Epistemological issues in the study of microbial life: alternative biospheres, Stud. Hist. Phil. Bio. & Biomed. Sci. 38, 847-861.
  • Davies, P. C. W. & Lineweaver, C.H. (2005). Finding a second sample of life on Earth, Astrobiology 5, 154-163.

For the topic of creating life, Marc Bedau recommends:

  • S. Rasmussen, M. A. Bedau, L. Chen, D. Deamer, D. C. Krakauer, N. H. Packard, P. F. Stadler, eds. 2008. Protocells: bridging nonliving and living matter. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  • M. A. Bedau and E. C. Parke, eds. 2008. The prospect of protocells: social and ethical implications of recreating life. Cambridge: MIT Press.

For the topic of microbial fossils, Abigail Allwood recommends:

  • Allwood, A.C., Walter, M.R., Kamber, B.S., Marshall, C.P., Burch, I.W., 2006. Stromatolite reef from the Early Archaean era of Australia. Nature, 441: 714-718
  • Allwood, A.C., Burch, I.W., Walter, M.R. and Kamber, B.S., 2007, 3.43 billion-year-old stromatolite reef from the Pilbara Craton of Western Australia: ecosystem-scale insights to early life on Earth. Precambrian Research, 158: .198-227

For the topic of metabolism and early atmosphere, Janet Seifert recommends:

  • Denues, C., Rodriquez-Brito, B., Rayhawk, S., Kelley, S., Tran, T., Haynes, M., Liu, H., Furlan, M., Wegley, L., Chau, B., Ruan, Y., Hall, D., Angly, F.E., Edwards, R.A., Thurber, R.V., Reid, R.P., Siefert, J., Souza, V., Valentine, D.L., Swan, B.K., Brietbart, M., Rowher, F. (In Press) Biodiversity and biogeography of phages in modern stromatolites and thrombolites. Nature 2008
  • Souza, V., Eguiarte, L., Brietbart, M., Escalante, A.E. Falcon, L., Olmeda, G., Siefert, J., Travisano, M., Elser, J.J. (In Press) Cuatro Cienagas (Mexico) A microbial Galapagos. Nature 2008

For the topic of deep phylogeny, Andrew Roger recommeds:

  • Roger, A.J. and Hug, L. A. (2006) The origin and diversification of eukaryotes: problems with molecular phylogenetics and molecular clock estimation. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 361:1039-1054
  • Ruiz-Trillo, I., Burger, G., Holland, P., King, N., Lang, B.F., Roger, A.J. and Gray, M.W. (2007) The origins of multicellularity: a multi-taxon genome initiative. Trends Genet. 23:113-118
  • Rodriguez-Ezpeleta, N., Brinkmann, H., Burger, G., Roger, A.J., Gray, M.W., Philippe, H., and Lang, B.F. (2007) Toward resolving the eukaryotic tree: the phylogenetic position of jakobids and cercozoans. Curr. Biol. 17:1420-1425.

For the topic of genetic systems, Laura Landweber recommends:

  • Nowacki, M., Vijayan, V., Zhou, Y, Schotanus, K., Doak, T. G. and Landweber, L.F. (2008) RNA-mediated epigenetic programming of a genome-rearrangement pathway. Nature 451: 153-159
  • Landweber, L.F. (2007) Why Genomes in Pieces? Science 318: 405-407.

Back to top


General Information

Essays and articles (by date)

How do we know the gases that were in the primitive atmosphere at the time the earth was forming?

Answered by John Mercer, Assistant Professor of the Practice, Duke University Biology Department.

Building Blocks of Life Detected in Distant Galaxy

Anne Minard

National Geographic, February 5, 2008

The Implausibility of Metabolic Cycles on the Pre-Biotic Earth

Leslie Orgel

PLoS Biol 6(1):e18, 2008

Did Life Begin in Ice?

Douglas Fox

Discover, Feb. 2008

Did Life Originate in a Mica Sandwich Sitting in Primordial Soup? (12/4/07)

NSF News Story

The Meaning of Life (9/5/07)

Carl Zimmer


Issues in New Frontiers: Origins and Space Biology

Essays by researchers for educators and students from ActionBioScience.  Some essays have educational resources.

Scientists Find Clues That Life Began in Deep Space (1/30/01)


Books (by author)

Fry, Iris. The Emergence of Life on Earth: A Historical and Scientific Overview

Rutgers University Press, 2000

Hazen, Robert M. genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origin

Joseph Henry Press, 2005

Knoll, Andrew. Life on a Young Planet: The First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth

Princeton University Press, 2003

Maynard Smith, John and Szathmary, Eors. The Origins of Life: From the Birth of Life to the Origins of Language

Oxford University Press, 1999

Rizotti, Martino. Early Evolution: From the appearance of the first cell and the first modern organisms

Birkhauser Verlag, 2000

Life's Origin:The Beginnings of Biological Evolution

Edited by J. William Schopf

University of California Press, 2002

The Search for Life's Origins: Progress and Future Directions in Planetary Biology and Chemical Evolution

From the National Academies of Science, 1990 (Read on line, download pdfs, or order hard copy)

Back to top


For Educators

Educational Resources from the NASA Astrobiology Institute

Resources from NASA including the Looking for Life TV Documentary and various lessons in astrobiology, extromophiles, etc.

Computer Simulations

Biogenesis (Available in Spanish)


Primordial Life

Astrobiology: Science Learning Activities for Afterschool

For K-8, eight one hour activities from NASA

Life on Other Planets in the Solar System

Resource for middle and high schools through college.  Includes sections on extreme environments on earth, origins of life, biology of life and astrobiology.

Issues in New Frontiers: Origins and Space Biology

Essays by researchers for educators and students from ActionBioScience.  Some essays have educational resources.


Back to top

For Students

Astrobiology Summer Program

An NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates program at Penn State

Back to top

For Researchers

Darwin Center for Biogeology

The Darwin Center for Biogeology explores the interaction between biotic and abiotic components of earth by researching change and feedback in global, regional and local ecosystems across time. 

NASA Specialized Center of Research and Training (NSCORT) in Exobiology

An extensive collection of links to organizations and societies, government astrobiology sites, unversity astrobiology programs and courses, reference and news sites, educational materials, journals, SETI, extrasolar planets, evolutiona and origins sites

NASA Astrobiology Institute

"NASA established the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) in 1998 as an innovative way to develop the field of astrobiology and provide a scientific framework for flight missions. NAI was envisioned and implemented as a virtual, distributed organization of competitively-selected teams to promote, conduct, and lead integrated astrobiology research guided by the Astrobiology Roadmap."

Back to top


Symposium Home         Speaker Biographies         Directions to Sigma Xi