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April 30 2013

Eww! Early Earth Smelled Like Rotten Eggs


Kids like to taunt each other with the cry, "Last one there is a rotten egg!" In Earth's case, that might be more true of the first ones there, according to a new study suggesting that millions of years ago, the planet emanated such a stench.

The research, published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds fossil evidence of microbes snacking on other microbes, a form of feeding called heterotrophy. Heterotrophs can't make their own organic nutrients, so they have to eat other life forms. This is in contrast with autotrophs (think plants), which can synthesize their own food from sunlight or inorganic chemicals.

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