Carbonates and cherts as archives of seawater chemistry and habitability on a carbonate platform 3.35 Ga ago: Insights from Sm/Nd dating and trace element analysis from the Strelley Pool Formation, Western Australia

Sebastian Viehmann, Joachim Reitner, Nathalie Tepe, Simon V. Hohl, Martin Van Kranendonk, Thilo Hofmann, Christian Koeberl, Patrick Meister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Carbonates and cherts in the 3.35 billion-year-old Strelley Pool Formation (Fm.; Australia) host stromatolites that are among the oldest remnants of life on Earth. However, it is still not entirely clear whether these mineral phases are authigenic precipitates, and whether they represent reliable geochemical archives of early Earth environments. Here we present major/trace-element and Nd-isotope data of stromatolitic carbonates, associated crystal-fan carbonates, and cherts in the Strelley Pool Fm. (i) to assess the reliability of these chemical sediments as geochemical archives of the fluids from which they precipitated, (ii) to date the time of formation of carbonate and silica phases, and (iii) to trace the sources of elements prevailing in microbial habitats 3.35 Ga ago. Stromatolitic carbonates plot together with the stratigraphically underlying Marble Bar cherts on a Sm-Nd regression line yielding 3253 ± 320 Ma. In contrast, associated crystal-fan carbonates together with altered Marble Bar cherts yield 2718 ± 220 Ma, suggesting that their Sm-Nd isotope system was reset after deposition. Both types of carbonates, as well as white cherts, show shale-normalized rare earth element and yttrium patterns (REYSN; with the exception of redox-sensitive Ce and Eu and heavy REYSN to middle REYSN depletion) that are parallel to those of modern seawater, indicating a predominantly seawater-derived origin. Positive EuSN anomalies (2.1–2.4), combined with heterogeneous ɛNd3.35Ga values between −3.2 and +5.8 within individual alternating stromatolite laminae, further support that the dissolved fraction of seawater on the ancient carbonate platform was variably affected by both continental weathering and high-temperature hydrothermal fluids contributing elements of both young mafic or older felsic rocks. In conclusion, trace element and Nd isotope data presented here match well with the depositional environment, as characterized based on lithological, geochemical, and stratigraphic relationships, on an early continent, showing at least episodic emergence above the sea level, supporting microbial life on a shallow marine platform.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105742
JournalPrecambrian Research
Volume344
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 15 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Authigenic dolomite
  • Chert
  • Early life
  • Nd isotopes
  • Pilbara Supergroup
  • Strelley Pool Formation
  • Stromatolites
  • Trace elements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology

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