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R M Klaebe, M J Kennedy, A J M Jarrett, J J Brocks
Large magnitude (>10‰) carbon-isotope (δ(13) C) excursions recorded in carbonate-bearing sediments are increasingly used to monitor environmental change and constrain the chronology of the critical interval in the Neoproterozoic stratigraphic record that is timed with the first appearance and radiation of metazoan life. The ~10‰ Bitter Springs Anomaly preserved in Tonian-aged (1000-720 Ma) carbonate rocks in the Amadeus Basin of central Australia has been offered as one of the best preserved examples of a primary marine δ(13) C excursion because it is regionally reproducible and δ(13) C values covary in organic and carbonate carbon arguing against diagenetic exchange...
October 8, 2016: Geobiology
A Martignier, M Pacton, M Filella, J-M Jaquet, F Barja, K Pollok, F Langenhorst, S Lavigne, P Guagliardo, M R Kilburn, C Thomas, R Martini, D Ariztegui
Until now, descriptions of intracellular biomineralization of amorphous inclusions involving alkaline-earth metal (AEM) carbonates other than calcium have been confined exclusively to cyanobacteria (Couradeau et al., 2012). Here, we report the first evidence of the presence of intracellular amorphous granules of AEM carbonates (calcium, strontium, and barium) in unicellular eukaryotes. These inclusions, which we have named micropearls, show concentric and oscillatory zoning on a nanometric scale. They are widespread in certain eukaryote phytoplankters of Lake Geneva (Switzerland) and represent a previously unknown type of non-skeletal biomineralization, revealing an unexpected pathway in the geochemical cycle of AEMs...
September 30, 2016: Geobiology
D B Mills, D E Canfield
Metazoans emerged in a microbial world and play a unique role in the biosphere as the only complex multicellular eukaryotes capable of phagocytosis. While the bodyplan and feeding mode of the last common metazoan ancestor remain unresolved, the earliest multicellular stem-metazoans likely subsisted on picoplankton (planktonic microbes 0.2-2 μm in diameter) and dissolved organic matter (DOM), similarly to modern sponges. Once multicellular stem-metazoans emerged, they conceivably modulated both the local availability of picoplankton, which they preferentially removed from the water column for feeding, and detrital particles 2-100 μm in diameter, which they expelled and deposited into the benthos as waste products...
September 29, 2016: Geobiology
S K Lengger, J Fromont, K Grice
Over 8600 species are currently recorded in the phylum Porifera (sponges). They produce a large diversity of biochemical compounds including sterols, with more than 250 different sterols identified. Some of these sterols are of great interest, due to their use for fingerprinting in ecological and biomarker (molecular fossil) studies. As a large number of identified extant species from biodiversity surveys are housed in museum collections, preserved in ethanol, these present a potentially rich source of identified specimens for comparative lipid analyses...
September 29, 2016: Geobiology
A M Penny, R A Wood, A Yu Zhuravlev, A Curtis, F Bowyer, R Tostevin
Namacalathus hermanastes is one of the oldest known skeletal metazoans, found in carbonate settings of the terminal Ediacaran (~550-541 million years ago [Ma]). The palaeoecology of this widespread, goblet-shaped, benthic organism is poorly constrained yet critical for understanding the dynamics of the earliest metazoan communities. Analysis of in situ assemblages from the Nama Group, Namibia (~548-541 Ma), shows that Namacalathus exhibited size variation in response to differing water depths, hydrodynamic conditions and substrate types...
September 28, 2016: Geobiology
L E Kinsman-Costello, C S Sheik, N D Sheldon, G Allen Burton, D M Costello, D Marcus, P A Den Uyl, G J Dick
For a large part of earth's history, cyanobacterial mats thrived in low-oxygen conditions, yet our understanding of their ecological functioning is limited. Extant cyanobacterial mats provide windows into the putative functioning of ancient ecosystems, and they continue to mediate biogeochemical transformations and nutrient transport across the sediment-water interface in modern ecosystems. The structure and function of benthic mats are shaped by biogeochemical processes in underlying sediments. A modern cyanobacterial mat system in a submerged sinkhole of Lake Huron (LH) provides a unique opportunity to explore such sediment-mat interactions...
September 27, 2016: Geobiology
J T Lennon, D Nguyễn-Thùy, T M Phạm, A Drobniak, P H Tạ, N Ð Phạm, T Streil, K D Webster, A Schimmelmann
Sources and sinks of methane (CH4 ) are critical for understanding global biogeochemical cycles and their role in climate change. A growing number of studies have reported that CH4 concentrations in cave ecosystems are depleted, leading to the notion that these subterranean environments may act as sinks for atmospheric CH4 . Recently, it was hypothesized that this CH4 depletion may be caused by radiolysis, an abiotic process whereby CH4 is oxidized via interactions with ionizing radiation derived from radioactive decay...
September 27, 2016: Geobiology
D Y Sumner, A D Jungblut, I Hawes, D T Andersen, T J Mackey, K Wall
Microbial pinnacles in ice-covered Lake Vanda, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica, extend from the base of the ice to more than 50 m water depth. The distribution of microbial communities, their photosynthetic potential, and pinnacle morphology affects the local accumulation of biomass, which in turn shapes pinnacle morphology. This feedback, plus environmental stability, promotes the growth of elaborate microbial structures. In Lake Vanda, all mats sampled from greater than 10 m water depth contained pinnacles with a gradation in size from <1-mm-tall tufts to pinnacles that were centimeters tall...
November 2016: Geobiology
M Crespo-Medina, M W Bowles, V A Samarkin, K S Hunter, S B Joye
The microbial communities thriving in deep-sea brines are sustained largely by energy rich substrates supplied through active seepage. Geochemical, microbial activity, and microbial community composition data from different habitats at a Gulf of Mexico brine lake in Alaminos Canyon revealed habitat-linked variability in geochemistry that in turn drove patterns in microbial community composition and activity. The bottom of the brine lake was the most geochemically extreme (highest salinity and nutrient concentrations) habitat and its microbial community exhibited the highest diversity and richness indices...
September 2016: Geobiology
C S Chan, D Emerson, G W Luther
Despite the historical and economic significance of banded iron formations (BIFs), we have yet to resolve the formation mechanisms. On modern Earth, neutrophilic microaerophilic Fe-oxidizing micro-organisms (FeOM) produce copious amounts of Fe oxyhydroxides, leading us to wonder whether similar organisms played a role in producing BIFs. To evaluate this, we review the current knowledge of modern microaerophilic FeOM in the context of BIF paleoenvironmental studies. In modern environments wherever Fe(II) and O2 co-exist, microaerophilic FeOM proliferate...
September 2016: Geobiology
E K Field, S Kato, A J Findlay, D J MacDonald, B K Chiu, G W Luther, C S Chan
Observations of modern microbes have led to several hypotheses on how microbes precipitated the extensive iron formations in the geologic record, but we have yet to resolve the exact microbial contributions. An initial hypothesis was that cyanobacteria produced oxygen which oxidized iron abiotically; however, in modern environments such as microbial mats, where Fe(II) and O2 coexist, we commonly find microaerophilic chemolithotrophic iron-oxidizing bacteria producing Fe(III) oxyhydroxides. This suggests that such iron oxidizers could have inhabited niches in ancient coastal oceans where Fe(II) and O2 coexisted, and therefore contributed to banded iron formations (BIFs) and other ferruginous deposits...
September 2016: Geobiology
D Wacey, M Saunders, C Kong, M R Kilburn
Ambient inclusion trails (AITs) are tubular microstructures thought to form when a microscopic mineral crystal is propelled through a fine-grained rock matrix. Here, we report a new occurrence of AITs from a fossilized microbial mat within the 1878-Ma Gunflint Formation, at Current River, Ontario. The AITs are 1-15 μm in diameter, have pyrite as the propelled crystal, are infilled with chlorite and have been propelled through a microquartz (chert) or chlorite matrix. AITs most commonly originate at the boundary between pyrite- and chlorite-rich laminae and chert-filled fenestrae, with pyrite crystals propelled into the fenestrae...
September 2016: Geobiology
R J Murphy, M J Van Kranendonk, S J Kelloway, I E Wainwright
Hyperspectral imaging (400-2496 nm) was used to quantitatively map surface textures and compositional variations in stromatolites to determine whether complexity of textures could be used as evidence to support biogenicity in the absence of preserved biomarkers. Four samples of 2.72-2.4 Ga stromatolites from a variety of settings, encompassing marine and lacustrine environments, were selected for hyperspectral imaging. Images of the sawn surfaces of samples were processed to identify reflectance and mineral absorption features and quantify their intensity (as an index of mineral abundance) using automated feature extraction...
September 2016: Geobiology
A Leider, T C Schumacher, C Hallmann
Organic contamination of sedimentary rocks can produce artefacts in studies of hydrocarbon composition, and this can have significant negative consequences for interpretations of the geobiological record. False positives - that is cases of non-syngenetic hydrocarbon biomarkers - are common in Precambrian studies, and significant challenges persist despite the intensive effort devoted to these studies. Efforts to standardize the 'burden of proof' for distinguishing between contamination and syngenetic material have to date failed to yield a simple or universal protocol, yet the need remains great, as both bitumen-lean rocks and bitumen-rich samples can be vulnerable to the accumulation of false-positive signals...
September 2016: Geobiology
S K Sahoo, N J Planavsky, G Jiang, B Kendall, J D Owens, X Wang, X Shi, A D Anbar, T W Lyons
The ocean-atmosphere system is typically envisioned to have gone through a unidirectional oxygenation with significant oxygen increases in the earliest (ca. 635 Ma), middle (ca. 580 Ma), or late (ca. 560 Ma) Ediacaran Period. However, temporally discontinuous geochemical data and the patchy metazoan fossil record have been inadequate to chart the details of Ediacaran ocean oxygenation, raising fundamental debates about the timing of ocean oxygenation, its purported unidirectional rise, and its causal relationship, if any, with the evolution of early animal life...
September 2016: Geobiology
J N Ricci, R Morton, G Kulkarni, M L Summers, D K Newman
Hopanes are abundant in ancient sedimentary rocks at discrete intervals in Earth history, yet interpreting their significance in the geologic record is complicated by our incomplete knowledge of what their progenitors, hopanoids, do in modern cells. To date, few studies have addressed the breadth of diversity of physiological functions of these lipids and whether those functions are conserved across the hopanoid-producing bacterial phyla. Here, we generated mutants in the filamentous cyanobacterium, Nostoc punctiforme, that are unable to make all hopanoids (shc) or 2-methylhopanoids (hpnP)...
August 16, 2016: Geobiology
D R Monteverde, L Gómez-Consarnau, C Suffridge, S A Sañudo-Wilhelmy
Coenzymes are essential across all domains of life. B vitamins (B1 -thiamin, B2 -riboflavin, B3 -niacin, B5 -pantothenate, B6 -pyridoxine, B7 -biotin, and B12 -cobalamin) represent the largest class of coenzymes, which participate in a diverse set of reactions including C1 -rearrangements, DNA repair, electron transfer, and fatty acid synthesis. B vitamin structures range from simple to complex heterocycles, yet, despite this complexity, multiple lines of evidence exist for their ancient origins including abiotic synthesis under putative early Earth conditions and/or meteorite transport...
July 31, 2016: Geobiology
B Stackhouse, M C Y Lau, T Vishnivetskaya, N Burton, R Wang, A Southworth, L Whyte, T C Onstott
The response of methanotrophic bacteria capable of oxidizing atmospheric CH4 to climate warming is poorly understood, especially for those present in Arctic mineral cryosols. The atmospheric CH4 oxidation rates were measured in microcosms incubated at 4 °C and 10 °C along a 1-m depth profile and over a range of water saturation conditions for mineral cryosols containing type I and type II methanotrophs from Axel Heiberg Island (AHI), Nunavut, Canada. The cryosols exhibited net consumption of ~2 ppmv CH4 under all conditions, including during anaerobic incubations...
July 29, 2016: Geobiology
M G Babechuk, I C Kleinhanns, R Schoenberg
Fractionation of stable Cr isotopes has been measured in Archaean paleosols and marine sedimentary rocks and interpreted to record the terrestrial oxidation of Cr(III) to Cr(VI), providing possible indirect evidence for the emergence of oxygenic photosynthesis. However, these fractionations occur amidst evidence from other geochemical proxies for a pervasively anoxic atmosphere. This study examined the Cr geochemistry of the ca. 1.85 Ga Flin Flon paleosol, which developed under an atmosphere unambiguously oxidising enough to quantitatively convert Fe(II) to Fe(III) during pedogenesis...
July 21, 2016: Geobiology
S Cotroneo, J D Schiffbauer, V E McCoy, U G Wortmann, S A F Darroch, Y Peng, M Laflamme
Preservation of Pennsylvanian-aged (307 Ma) soft-bodied fossils from Mazon Creek, Illinois, USA, is attributed to the formation of siderite concretions, which encapsulate the remains of terrestrial, freshwater, and marine flora and fauna. The narrow range of positive δ(34) S values from pyrite in individual concretions suggests microenvironmentally limited ambient sulfate, which may have been rapidly exhausted by sulfate-reducing bacteria. Tissue of the decaying carcass was rapidly encased by early diagenetic pyrite and siderite produced within the sulfate reduction and methanogenic zones of the sediment, with continuation of the latter resulting in concretion cementation...
July 15, 2016: Geobiology
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