Cyclophosphates are a class of energy-rich compounds whose hydrolytic decomposition (ring opening) liberates energy that is sufficient for initiation of biomimetic phosphorylation reactions. Because of that, cyclophosphates might be considered as a likely source of reactive prebiotic phosphorus on early Earth. A major obstacle toward adoption of this hypothesis is that cyclophosphates have so far not been encountered in nature. We herein report on the discovery of these minerals in the terrestrial environment, at the Dead Sea basin in Israel. Cyclophosphates represent the most condensed phosphate species known in nature. A pathway for cyclophosphate geosynthesis is herein proposed, involving simple pyrolytic oxidation of terrestrial phosphides. Discovery of natural cyclophosphates opens new opportunities for modeling prebiotic phosphorylation reactions that resulted in the emergence of primordial life on our planet.
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