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≥3700 Ma pre-metamorphic dolomite formed by microbial mediation in the Isua supracrustal belt (W. Greenland): simple evidence for early life?

Journal Article


Abstract


  • Chemical (meta)sedimentary rocks in the amphibolite facies ≥3700 Ma Isua supracrustal belt (W. Greenland) are mostly strongly deformed, so there is only a small chance of the survival of features such as stromatolites or microfossils that would be direct proof of a ≥3700 Ma biosphere. Therefore the search for evidence of ≥3700 Ma life in Isua rocks has focused on chemical signatures, particularly C-isotopes. The new approach presented here is based on whole rock chemistry rather than isotopic signatures. Isua chemical sedimentary rocks have Ca-Mg-Fe bulk compositions that coincide with ferroan dolomite - siderite/Fe-oxide mixtures. Most have low Al2O3, TiO2 contents (<0.5 and <0.05 wt% respectively) showing minimal contamination from terriginous materials. Identical seawater-like REE + Y shale-normalised trace element signatures with La, Ce, Eu and Y positive anomalies are found in magnetite-rich banded iron formation (BIF - such as the geochemical standard IF-G), dolomite-rich rocks and quartz-carbonate-calc-silicate rocks. Additionally from a rare, small area of low deformation in Isua, there are ∼3700 Ma pillow lava interstices consisting of quartz + tremolite + calcite derived from pre-metamorphic dolomite + silica. Thus the dolomite in the chemical sediments and the pillow interstice was part of the pre-metamorphic assemblage, and was deposited from seawater and/or low-temperature groundwater (as shown by the REE + Y chemistry). Therefore, at least some Isua carbonate rocks are sedimentary or diagenetic in origin rather than being formed by metasomatism at 600-500 °C as proposed by Rose et al. (1996. American Journal of Science 296, 1004-1044). Low-temperature dolomite formation in modern sediments (sabkha to deep ocean) and its deposition from low-temperature groundwater within basalts has only been directly observed in the field and replicated in laboratory experiments through anaerobic microbial mediation. Therefore, microbial mediation appears to be essential for the formation of low-temperature dolomite. From this, we propose that the evidence for the formation of low-temperature pre-metamorphic dolomite in Isua prior to metamorphism provides a new, simple, and relatively direct line of evidence for ≥3700 Ma life. © 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

UOW Authors


  •   Nutman, Allen
  •   Friend, Clark R. L. (external author)
  •   Bennett, Vickie C. (external author)
  •   Wright, David (external author)
  •   Norman, Marc D. (external author)

Publication Date


  • 2010

Citation


  • Nutman, A. Phillip., Friend, C. R L., Bennett, V. C., Wright, D. & Norman, M. D. (2010). ≥3700 Ma pre-metamorphic dolomite formed by microbial mediation in the Isua supracrustal belt (W. Greenland): simple evidence for early life?. Precambrian Research, 183 (4), 725-737.

Scopus Eid


  • 2-s2.0-78649451259

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/scipapers/5153

Number Of Pages


  • 12

Start Page


  • 725

End Page


  • 737

Volume


  • 183

Issue


  • 4

Abstract


  • Chemical (meta)sedimentary rocks in the amphibolite facies ≥3700 Ma Isua supracrustal belt (W. Greenland) are mostly strongly deformed, so there is only a small chance of the survival of features such as stromatolites or microfossils that would be direct proof of a ≥3700 Ma biosphere. Therefore the search for evidence of ≥3700 Ma life in Isua rocks has focused on chemical signatures, particularly C-isotopes. The new approach presented here is based on whole rock chemistry rather than isotopic signatures. Isua chemical sedimentary rocks have Ca-Mg-Fe bulk compositions that coincide with ferroan dolomite - siderite/Fe-oxide mixtures. Most have low Al2O3, TiO2 contents (<0.5 and <0.05 wt% respectively) showing minimal contamination from terriginous materials. Identical seawater-like REE + Y shale-normalised trace element signatures with La, Ce, Eu and Y positive anomalies are found in magnetite-rich banded iron formation (BIF - such as the geochemical standard IF-G), dolomite-rich rocks and quartz-carbonate-calc-silicate rocks. Additionally from a rare, small area of low deformation in Isua, there are ∼3700 Ma pillow lava interstices consisting of quartz + tremolite + calcite derived from pre-metamorphic dolomite + silica. Thus the dolomite in the chemical sediments and the pillow interstice was part of the pre-metamorphic assemblage, and was deposited from seawater and/or low-temperature groundwater (as shown by the REE + Y chemistry). Therefore, at least some Isua carbonate rocks are sedimentary or diagenetic in origin rather than being formed by metasomatism at 600-500 °C as proposed by Rose et al. (1996. American Journal of Science 296, 1004-1044). Low-temperature dolomite formation in modern sediments (sabkha to deep ocean) and its deposition from low-temperature groundwater within basalts has only been directly observed in the field and replicated in laboratory experiments through anaerobic microbial mediation. Therefore, microbial mediation appears to be essential for the formation of low-temperature dolomite. From this, we propose that the evidence for the formation of low-temperature pre-metamorphic dolomite in Isua prior to metamorphism provides a new, simple, and relatively direct line of evidence for ≥3700 Ma life. © 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

UOW Authors


  •   Nutman, Allen
  •   Friend, Clark R. L. (external author)
  •   Bennett, Vickie C. (external author)
  •   Wright, David (external author)
  •   Norman, Marc D. (external author)

Publication Date


  • 2010

Citation


  • Nutman, A. Phillip., Friend, C. R L., Bennett, V. C., Wright, D. & Norman, M. D. (2010). ≥3700 Ma pre-metamorphic dolomite formed by microbial mediation in the Isua supracrustal belt (W. Greenland): simple evidence for early life?. Precambrian Research, 183 (4), 725-737.

Scopus Eid


  • 2-s2.0-78649451259

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/scipapers/5153

Number Of Pages


  • 12

Start Page


  • 725

End Page


  • 737

Volume


  • 183

Issue


  • 4