Critical role of granite in evolution of life on Earth revealed in new study

Jun 13, 2012 By Kelly Potts

It’s one of the world’s toughest forms of rock, used to create buildings and monuments across the globe, and famously linked with one of Scotland’s main cities.

Now scientists have discovered that played an important role in a major episode over 1.5 billion years ago, which eventually led to human on Earth.

Findings from a study led by the University of Aberdeen in collaboration with the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre published in Geology, reveal that the shift from simple to more complex life on this planet was prompted by the high prevalence of granite in the Earth’s crust at this time.

Professor John Parnell from the University of Aberdeen’s School of Geosciences said: “Over 1.5 billion years ago a major transition took place which resulted in the evolution of life from single-celled organisms – the simplest, most basic form of life–– into much more complex, multi-celled organisms.

“Our findings have made the link for the first time that it was the vast amount of granite in the Earth’s crust at this point, which helped this shift to occur.

“The Earth’s crust 1.5 billion years ago was particularly thick which in turn meant that it was extremely hot, as the deeper you extend into the Earth, the hotter the temperature.

“The rocks within the crust which melted due to this heat rose to the surface where they cooled and formed granite.

“Metals prevalent in this granite – especially zinc, copper and molybdenum – were eroded at the surface of the Earth and incorporated into the simple cells which were the predominant form of life on the planet at this point.'

“It was the introduction of the metals into these single-celled organisms that changed their chemistry and allowed them to evolve into the complex multi-celled organisms which were the first step towards more diverse life on Earth.

“When a cell is more complex it means it can perform more functions – and one of the new functions of the complex multi-celled organisms which developed at this time, was sexual reproduction.

“The mixing of genes which are a result of sexual reproduction, give the variations that allow for natural selection, which drives evolution.

“What our findings have revealed is that without the high density of granite, there would not have been enough metal to allow these cells to become more complex, and ultimately this key point in evolution which eventually led to human life on Earth, could not have taken place at that time.”

The scientists derived evidence for their findings from metal ore deposits found in 1.5 to 1.8 billion year-old rocks in many parts of the world, but in particular Australia.

Small scale versions of similar rock types with traces of metal are also evident on the mainland of the North West of Scotland and the Hebrides.

 Dr. Adrian Boyce from the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre said: "It's a privilege to be able to work on rocks such as these, which are opening up the secrets of key transitions in the life of our planet."

The study was partially supported by funding from Natural Environment Research Council.

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kevinrtrs
1 / 5 (14) Jun 13, 2012
When a cell is more complex it means it can perform more functions and one of the new functions of the complex multi-celled organisms which developed at this time, was sexual reproduction.

This is surely the fairy tale statement of the decade! So far no one has come up with a scientifically plausible explanation for how sexual differentiation developed. So how can the researcher make this glib statement about sexual reproduction here? Does he know exactly how the differentiation occurred such that it enables him to know it happened at this time? Or the other way around?

Please, sir. This is pseudo science at its best.
kevinrtrs
1 / 5 (14) Jun 13, 2012
allowed them to evolve into the complex multi-celled organisms which

Of course, the researcher needs to first demonstrate how life arose spontaneously from just basic materials without any intelligent outside intervention.
Then, even when he's done that, he'll need to demonstrate how a single cellular organism turns into a multi-cellular one without any additional programming on the inside. Currently no one has satisfactorily explained that little conundrum either.

So once again, because multi-cellular organisms exist, it is assumed [without any substantial justification]that they evolved. This is pseudo science.
kevinrtrs
1 / 5 (14) Jun 13, 2012
The mixing of genes which are a result of sexual reproduction, give the variations that allow for natural selection, which drives evolution.

Just the other day a paper got published [ quietly and without any fanfare ]in "Nature" which simply blows this kind of reasoning out of the water. All mixing occurs at sites of similarity [so-called hotspots] far away from the control regions.

Homologous recombination takes place in highly controlled fashion, leaving ZERO space for random mutations to contribute new information for building new materials, structures or functionality. So this "driver" of evolution has now been put on the scrap heap. Time to find some other.
gmfr
5 / 5 (9) Jun 13, 2012
allowed them to evolve into the complex multi-celled organisms which

Of course, the researcher needs to first demonstrate how life arose spontaneously from just basic materials without any intelligent outside intervention.
Then, even when he's done that, he'll need to demonstrate how a single cellular organism turns into a multi-cellular one without any additional programming on the inside. Currently no one has satisfactorily explained that little conundrum either.

So once again, because multi-cellular organisms exist, it is assumed [without any substantial justification]that they evolved. This is pseudo science.


It's not that hard to imagine how adaptations to single cell organisms that live as colonies would lead to multiple cell organisms, especially over the massive time scales evolution has had to work with. Life has only been multicellular for one billion of the 3.8 billion years that life has existed on this planet.
roboferret
5 / 5 (7) Jun 13, 2012

Just the other day a paper got published [ quietly and without any fanfare ]in "Nature"

You are implying that this discovery has been somehow "hushed" because it is damaging to the theory of evolution. This is a variation on the "evil athiest scientist conspiracy" creationist trope. Besides revealing your complete ignorance of the scientific process, you've missed the obvious point that being published in Nature is a pretty big deal in itself, and the research, while interesting, isn't as revolutionary as you might think.
Try having an original thought of your own, instead of being fed your opinions from the Institute of Crazed Ramblings website. Maybe actually get a copy of and Nature read the article you claim to be citing. Evolution, like gravity is a fact, even if we haven't yet figured out all the fine details.
MandoZink
5 / 5 (4) Jun 13, 2012
Please, sir. This is pseudo science at its best.

Golly gee! I took it as one scientist's inspired speculation that will be further tested to consider it's merits.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
5 / 5 (1) Jun 13, 2012
There is a good idea in this, but Parnell is overreaching.

The modern genetic view based on extensive data is that the DNA LUCA started to diverge around the time of the oxygenation of the atmosphere due to oxygen and energy stresses. ["The evolution and functional repertoire of translation proteins following the origin of life, Goldman et al, Biology Direct, 2010; "The Emergence and Early Evolution of Biological Carbon-Fixation", Braakman et al, PLoS Comp Bil, 2012.]

This happened ~ 2.5 billion years ago. Evolution of sexuality is still argued. But that modern cells uses a lot of transition metals in their enzymes are correct. However, it seems most of this protein use evolved early on, including zink. Copper and molybdenum main use are recent. (See "Rapid early innovation during an Archaean genetic expansion", David et al, Nature, 2010.) Here is where Parnell et al result becomes interesting.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
5 / 5 (2) Jun 13, 2012
Creationists shouldn't comment on science, they only show how ludicrous religion is.

For example, evolution is the process that takes living populations to living populations so its fact and theory is independent on how living populations occurs, general relativity is the process that takes spacetime and matterenergy to spacetime and matterenergy so its fact and theory is independent on how spacetime and matterenergy occurs, and math is a means to manipulate numbers so its theory is independent on how we came up with the idea of numbers in the first place.

Religion is the process that takes ludicrous creationists to the web for everyone to laugh at so its practice is independent on how creationism occurred in the first place. Probably someone squatting realized he or she had "created", by the looks of it.