Oxygen, phosphorous and early life on Earth

Nov 17, 2013

Two billion years ago the Earth system was recovering from perhaps the single-most profound modification of its surface environments: the oxygenation of the atmosphere and oceans. This led to a series of major changes in global biogeochemical cycles, as a team around Aivo Lepland of the Norwegian Geological Survey NGU reports in the latest online edition of "Nature Geoscience".

This also resulted in the distribution of one of life's key elements, phosphorous. Studies on the unique organic-rich Zaonega rock formation preserved in Carelia, NW Russia, with an age of around two billion years has revealed an astonishing result: "The formation of Earth's earliest phosphorites was influenced strongly, if not controlled completely, by the activity of sulfur bacteria", says co-author Richard Wirth of the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, who analyzed the rock samples with an electron microscope.

"This activity occurred in an oil field setting that had been influenced by active volcanism and associated venting and seeping." In the modern world, sulfur bacteria inhabit upwelling vent and seep areas known as "Black Smokers" and mediate phosphorite formation. The authors therefore conclude that the formation of the earliest worldwide phosphorites 2 billion years ago can be linked to the establishment of sulfur bacteria habitats, triggered by the oxygenation of the Earth.

Explore further: Atmospheric oxygenation three billion years ago

More information: Nature Geoscience Advance Online Publication, DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2005

Related Stories

Atmospheric oxygenation three billion years ago

Sep 25, 2013

Oxygen appeared in the atmosphere up to 700 million years earlier than we previously thought, according to research published today in the journal Nature, raising new questions about the evolution of ear ...

Pilbara home to 3.5 billion-year-old bacterial ecosystems

Nov 11, 2013

(Phys.org) —Evidence of complex microbial ecosystems dating back almost 3.5 billion years has been found in Western Australia's Pilbara region by an international team including UWA Research Assistant Professor ...

Iron in primeval seas rusted by bacteria

Apr 25, 2013

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the University of Tübingen have been able to show for the first time how microorganisms contributed to the formation of the world's biggest iron ore deposits. The biggest known ...

Recommended for you

Fires in Central Africa During July 2014

3 hours ago

Hundreds of fires covered central Africa in mid-July 2014, as the annual fire season continues across the region. Multiple red hotspots, which indicate areas of increased temperatures, are heavily sprinkled ...

NASA's HS3 mission spotlight: The HIRAD instrument

13 hours ago

The Hurricane Imaging Radiometer, known as HIRAD, will fly aboard one of two unmanned Global Hawk aircraft during NASA's Hurricane Severe Storm Sentinel or HS3 mission from Wallops beginning August 26 through ...

Fires in the Northern Territories July 2014

Jul 23, 2014

Environment Canada has issued a high health risk warning for Yellowknife and surrounding area because of heavy smoke in the region due to forest fires. In the image taken by the Aqua satellite, the smoke ...

User comments : 0