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Rapid emergence of life shown by discovery of 3,700-million-year-old microbial structures

Journal Article


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Abstract


  • Biological activity is a major factor in Earth’s chemical cycles,

    including facilitating CO2 sequestration and providing climate

    feedbacks. Thus a key question in Earth’s evolution is when did life

    arise and impact hydrosphere–atmosphere–lithosphere chemical

    cycles? Until now, evidence for the oldest life on Earth focused

    on debated stable isotopic signatures of 3,800–3,700 million year

    (Myr)-old metamorphosed sedimentary rocks and minerals1,2

    from the Isua supracrustal belt (ISB), southwest Greenland3. Here

    we report evidence for ancient life from a newly exposed outcrop

    of 3,700-Myr-old metacarbonate rocks in the ISB that contain

    1–4-cm-high stromatolites—macroscopically layered structures

    produced by microbial communities. The ISB stromatolites grew

    in a shallow marine environment, as indicated by seawater-like

    rare-earth element plus yttrium trace element signatures of the

    metacarbonates, and by interlayered detrital sedimentary rocks

    with cross-lamination and storm-wave generated breccias. The ISB

    stromatolites predate by 220 Myr the previous most convincing and

    generally accepted multidisciplinary evidence for oldest life remains

    in the 3,480-Myr-old Dresser Formation of the Pilbara Craton,

    Australia4,5. The presence of the ISB stromatolites demonstrates the

    establishment of shallow marine carbonate production with biotic

    CO2 sequestration by 3,700 million years ago (Ma), near the start

    of Earth’s sedimentary record. A sophistication of life by 3,700 Ma

    is in accord with genetic molecular clock studies placing life’s origin

    in the Hadean eon (>4,000 Ma)6.

Authors


  •   Nutman, Allen Phillip.
  •   Bennett, Vickie C. (external author)
  •   Friend, Clark R. L. (external author)
  •   Van Kranendonk, Martin J. (external author)
  •   Chivas, Allan

Publication Date


  • 2016

Published In


Citation


  • Nutman, A. P., Bennett, V. C., Friend, C. R. L., Van Kranendonk, M. J. & Chivas, A. R. (2016). Rapid emergence of life shown by discovery of 3,700-million-year-old microbial structures. Nature, 537 (7621), 535-538.

Ro Full-text Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=5181&context=smhpapers

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/smhpapers/4157

Number Of Pages


  • 3

Start Page


  • 535

End Page


  • 538

Volume


  • 537

Issue


  • 7621

Abstract


  • Biological activity is a major factor in Earth’s chemical cycles,

    including facilitating CO2 sequestration and providing climate

    feedbacks. Thus a key question in Earth’s evolution is when did life

    arise and impact hydrosphere–atmosphere–lithosphere chemical

    cycles? Until now, evidence for the oldest life on Earth focused

    on debated stable isotopic signatures of 3,800–3,700 million year

    (Myr)-old metamorphosed sedimentary rocks and minerals1,2

    from the Isua supracrustal belt (ISB), southwest Greenland3. Here

    we report evidence for ancient life from a newly exposed outcrop

    of 3,700-Myr-old metacarbonate rocks in the ISB that contain

    1–4-cm-high stromatolites—macroscopically layered structures

    produced by microbial communities. The ISB stromatolites grew

    in a shallow marine environment, as indicated by seawater-like

    rare-earth element plus yttrium trace element signatures of the

    metacarbonates, and by interlayered detrital sedimentary rocks

    with cross-lamination and storm-wave generated breccias. The ISB

    stromatolites predate by 220 Myr the previous most convincing and

    generally accepted multidisciplinary evidence for oldest life remains

    in the 3,480-Myr-old Dresser Formation of the Pilbara Craton,

    Australia4,5. The presence of the ISB stromatolites demonstrates the

    establishment of shallow marine carbonate production with biotic

    CO2 sequestration by 3,700 million years ago (Ma), near the start

    of Earth’s sedimentary record. A sophistication of life by 3,700 Ma

    is in accord with genetic molecular clock studies placing life’s origin

    in the Hadean eon (>4,000 Ma)6.

Authors


  •   Nutman, Allen Phillip.
  •   Bennett, Vickie C. (external author)
  •   Friend, Clark R. L. (external author)
  •   Van Kranendonk, Martin J. (external author)
  •   Chivas, Allan

Publication Date


  • 2016

Published In


Citation


  • Nutman, A. P., Bennett, V. C., Friend, C. R. L., Van Kranendonk, M. J. & Chivas, A. R. (2016). Rapid emergence of life shown by discovery of 3,700-million-year-old microbial structures. Nature, 537 (7621), 535-538.

Ro Full-text Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=5181&context=smhpapers

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/smhpapers/4157

Number Of Pages


  • 3

Start Page


  • 535

End Page


  • 538

Volume


  • 537

Issue


  • 7621