Ancient soils provide early whiff of oxygen
Date published: 26th September 2013
If confirmed, it is a significant observation because it suggests the ability of ancient lifeforms to produce oxygen may also have got going earlier than previously recognised.
"Oxygenic photosynthesis is a very complicated metabolism and it makes sense that the evolution of such a metabolism would take perhaps two billion years - that we might not see its manifestation until the Great Oxidation Event. But now that we see oxygen much earlier in the atmosphere, it tells us that even really complex metabolisms can evolve very fast," said team-member Dr Sean Crowe from the University of British Columbia, Canada.
The group looked at remnant soils, dated to about 2.95 billion years ago, which have subsequently become locked up in rocks in what is now Kwazulu-Natal Province, South Africa.
In particular, the researchers studied the ratios of
different types, or isotopes, of chromium atoms that were present in the
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