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Where Did Earth Get Its Phosphorus?

Phosphorus plays a crucial role in life chemistry.

Phosphates serve as the backbone for all nucleic acids and are the major repository of chemical energy for metabolism. The human body contains about 11,000 parts per million of phosphorus by weight.

Phosphorus, however, is a relatively rare element. For both the Sun and the universe as a whole, the abundance level of phosphorus is only 7 parts per million. Earth’s crust, on the other hand, has a phosphorus abundance level of 1,000 parts per million. In part, because of its exceptionally high phosphorus abundance, Earth is able to support life and life in abundance. The question of how Earth became so phosphorus rich mystified astronomers and geologists for decades. An Indian geologist may have discovered the answer.1

Stromatolites in a Precambrian outcropping near Udaipur, India, reveal a sharp demarcation between two lithofacies. One is a carbonate stromatolite facies. Immediately above this facies (and therefore younger) is a phosphate stromatolite facies. This particular feature, the geologist points out, could be explained by an extraordinary event—a large impact event that inundated the Earth with phosphorus. Such an impact event would explain the transition from phosphorus-impoverished life-forms (simple bacteria) to phosphorus-rich life. Without such an enrichment event advanced life would have remained impossible.

Still remaining to be explained is how such a phosphorus-rich asteroid or comet could have formed and how that asteroid or comet could have impacted the Earth at the just-right time and in a just-right manner. So far, astronomers can’t identify any astrophysical source with the necessary phosphorus abundance. The lack of any such known source combined with the presently extreme high phosphorus abundance of Earth’s crust argues for a supernatural, super-intelligent Creator carefully engineering the Milky Way Galaxy, the solar system, and Earth to make advanced life possible.





  1. M. S. Sisodia, “Evidences Support an Extraordinary Event, Possibly an Impact During the Proterozoic, for Phosphorus Abundance on the Earth,” Astrobiology 8, no. 2 (April 2008): 360.