In a recent analysis of 2.5 billion-year-old Australian rocks, researchers found that volcanic eruptions stimulated the population growth of marine microorganisms and created the first puffs of oxygen into the atmosphere. This would change the current story of the Earth’s early atmosphere, assuming that most changes in the early atmosphere were regulated by geological or chemical processes. The findings of the study were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Although the focus is on the early history of the Earth, research has implications for extraterrestrial life and even climate change. The study was led by the University of Washington, the University of Michigan, and other institutions. “What has begun to become clear over the last few decades is, in fact, that there are many connections between the solid and the inanimate earth and the evolution of life.”
“But as far as we know, what are the special relationships that facilitated the evolution of life on Earth,” Miksnerova asked. In its early days, there was no oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere, and oxygen-breathing organisms were scarce.
About 2.4 billion years ago, the Earth’s atmosphere became permanently oxygen-rich. In 2007, Ariel Anbar, co – author at Arizona State University, analyzed rocks in the Mount Macrae Shale in Western Australia and reported a short-lived oxygen whip about 50 to 100 million years before it became a permanent place in the atmosphere.
Recent research has confirmed other, earlier, short-term oxygen spikes, but their ups and downs have not been explained. In a new study, researchers at the University of Michigan, led by co-author Joel Blum, analyzed the same ancient rocks for the density and number of neutrons in the element mercury emitted by volcanic eruptions.
Large volcanic eruptions emit mercury gas into the upper atmosphere, which today spreads to the Earth’s surface for one or two years before it rains. New analysis shows that mercury increased a few million years before the temporary rise in oxygen.
“Of course, in the rock below the transient increase of oxygen, we found evidence of an abundance of mercury and isotopes that would most logically be explained by volcanic eruptions into the atmosphere,” said co-author Roger Buick. Professor of Earth and Space Sciences. Where there was a volcanic eruption, there must have been lava and volcanic ash fields.
Rocks rich in nutrients stay in the wind and rain, releasing phosphorus into rivers that can fertilize nearby shores and allow oxygen-producing cyanobacteria and other single-celled organisms to grow. “There are other nutrients that modify biological functions in short periods of time, but phosphorus is the most important in the long run,” Miksnerova said.
Today, phosphorus is abundant in organic matter and in agricultural fertilizers. But in very ancient times, the main source of this rare resource was the climate of the volcanic rocks. “In climates under the Archaean climate, fresh basaltic rock will slowly melt and release essential macro-nutrient phosphorus into rivers,” Miksnerova added.
“It will feed the microbes that live in shallow coastal areas and create increased bio-productivity, which will create a by-product and oxygen spike,” Miksnerova explained. The exact location of those volcanoes and lava fields is unknown, but Buick said large lava fields of the right age exist elsewhere in modern India and Canada.
“Our study suggests that the immediate trigger for these transient whips of oxygen is an increase in oxygen production, rather than a decrease in oxygen consumption through rocks or other inanimate processes,” Buick said. “This is important because the presence of oxygen in the atmosphere is fundamental – it is the greatest impetus for the evolution of life, both large and complex,” Buick added.
Ultimately, the researchers said, the study suggests how the geography of a planet can affect any organism evolving on its surface, helping to identify habitable exoplanets or planets outside our solar system in search of life in the universe. (ANI)
(This story was not edited by Devdiscourse staff, it was created automatically from a syndicated feed.)
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