Microbial life and biogeochemical cycling on land 3,220 million years ago

Martin Homann, Pierre Sansjofre, Mark Van Zuilen, Christoph Heubeck, Jian Gong, Bryan Killingsworth, Ian S. Foster, Alessandro Airo, Martin Van Kranendonk, Magali Ader, Stefan V. Lalonde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The colonization of emergent continental landmass by microbial life was an evolutionary step of paramount importance in Earth history. Here we report direct fossil evidence for life on land 3,220 million years ago (Ma) in the form of terrestrial microbial mats draping fluvial conglomerates and gravelly sandstones of the Moodies Group, South Africa. Combined field, petrographic, carbon isotope and Raman spectroscopic analyses confirm the synsedimentary origin and biogenicity of these unique fossil mats as well as their fluvial habitat. The carbon isotope compositions of organic matter (δ13Corg) from these mats define a narrow range centred on −21‰, in contrast to fossil mats of marine origin from nearby tidal deposits that show δ13Corg values as low as −34‰. Bulk nitrogen isotope compositions (2 < δ15N < 5‰) are also significantly different from their marine counterparts (0 < δ15N < 3‰), which we interpret as reflecting denitrification in the terrestrial habitat, possibly of an atmospheric source of nitrate. Our results support the antiquity of a thriving terrestrial biosphere during the Palaeoarchaean and suggest that a complex and microbially driven redox landscape existed during the deposition of the Moodies Group, with distinct biogeochemical cycling occurring on land by 3,220 Ma.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Geoscience
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

fossil
carbon isotope
microbial mat
nitrogen isotope
habitat
biosphere
conglomerate
denitrification
colonization
sandstone
nitrate
organic matter
history
land
Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

Cite this

Homann, M., Sansjofre, P., Van Zuilen, M., Heubeck, C., Gong, J., Killingsworth, B., ... Lalonde, S. V. (Accepted/In press). Microbial life and biogeochemical cycling on land 3,220 million years ago. Nature Geoscience. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-018-0190-9

Microbial life and biogeochemical cycling on land 3,220 million years ago. / Homann, Martin; Sansjofre, Pierre; Van Zuilen, Mark; Heubeck, Christoph; Gong, Jian; Killingsworth, Bryan; Foster, Ian S.; Airo, Alessandro; Van Kranendonk, Martin; Ader, Magali; Lalonde, Stefan V.

In: Nature Geoscience, 01.01.2018.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Homann, M, Sansjofre, P, Van Zuilen, M, Heubeck, C, Gong, J, Killingsworth, B, Foster, IS, Airo, A, Van Kranendonk, M, Ader, M & Lalonde, SV 2018, 'Microbial life and biogeochemical cycling on land 3,220 million years ago', Nature Geoscience. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-018-0190-9
Homann M, Sansjofre P, Van Zuilen M, Heubeck C, Gong J, Killingsworth B et al. Microbial life and biogeochemical cycling on land 3,220 million years ago. Nature Geoscience. 2018 Jan 1. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-018-0190-9
Homann, Martin ; Sansjofre, Pierre ; Van Zuilen, Mark ; Heubeck, Christoph ; Gong, Jian ; Killingsworth, Bryan ; Foster, Ian S. ; Airo, Alessandro ; Van Kranendonk, Martin ; Ader, Magali ; Lalonde, Stefan V. / Microbial life and biogeochemical cycling on land 3,220 million years ago. In: Nature Geoscience. 2018.
@article{a88526052c8e47eeadc9e868be00d0e5,
title = "Microbial life and biogeochemical cycling on land 3,220 million years ago",
abstract = "The colonization of emergent continental landmass by microbial life was an evolutionary step of paramount importance in Earth history. Here we report direct fossil evidence for life on land 3,220 million years ago (Ma) in the form of terrestrial microbial mats draping fluvial conglomerates and gravelly sandstones of the Moodies Group, South Africa. Combined field, petrographic, carbon isotope and Raman spectroscopic analyses confirm the synsedimentary origin and biogenicity of these unique fossil mats as well as their fluvial habitat. The carbon isotope compositions of organic matter (δ13Corg) from these mats define a narrow range centred on −21‰, in contrast to fossil mats of marine origin from nearby tidal deposits that show δ13Corg values as low as −34‰. Bulk nitrogen isotope compositions (2 < δ15N < 5‰) are also significantly different from their marine counterparts (0 < δ15N < 3‰), which we interpret as reflecting denitrification in the terrestrial habitat, possibly of an atmospheric source of nitrate. Our results support the antiquity of a thriving terrestrial biosphere during the Palaeoarchaean and suggest that a complex and microbially driven redox landscape existed during the deposition of the Moodies Group, with distinct biogeochemical cycling occurring on land by 3,220 Ma.",
author = "Martin Homann and Pierre Sansjofre and {Van Zuilen}, Mark and Christoph Heubeck and Jian Gong and Bryan Killingsworth and Foster, {Ian S.} and Alessandro Airo and {Van Kranendonk}, Martin and Magali Ader and Lalonde, {Stefan V.}",
year = "2018",
month = "1",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1038/s41561-018-0190-9",
language = "English",
journal = "Nature Geoscience",
issn = "1752-0894",
publisher = "Nature Publishing Group",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Microbial life and biogeochemical cycling on land 3,220 million years ago

AU - Homann, Martin

AU - Sansjofre, Pierre

AU - Van Zuilen, Mark

AU - Heubeck, Christoph

AU - Gong, Jian

AU - Killingsworth, Bryan

AU - Foster, Ian S.

AU - Airo, Alessandro

AU - Van Kranendonk, Martin

AU - Ader, Magali

AU - Lalonde, Stefan V.

PY - 2018/1/1

Y1 - 2018/1/1

N2 - The colonization of emergent continental landmass by microbial life was an evolutionary step of paramount importance in Earth history. Here we report direct fossil evidence for life on land 3,220 million years ago (Ma) in the form of terrestrial microbial mats draping fluvial conglomerates and gravelly sandstones of the Moodies Group, South Africa. Combined field, petrographic, carbon isotope and Raman spectroscopic analyses confirm the synsedimentary origin and biogenicity of these unique fossil mats as well as their fluvial habitat. The carbon isotope compositions of organic matter (δ13Corg) from these mats define a narrow range centred on −21‰, in contrast to fossil mats of marine origin from nearby tidal deposits that show δ13Corg values as low as −34‰. Bulk nitrogen isotope compositions (2 < δ15N < 5‰) are also significantly different from their marine counterparts (0 < δ15N < 3‰), which we interpret as reflecting denitrification in the terrestrial habitat, possibly of an atmospheric source of nitrate. Our results support the antiquity of a thriving terrestrial biosphere during the Palaeoarchaean and suggest that a complex and microbially driven redox landscape existed during the deposition of the Moodies Group, with distinct biogeochemical cycling occurring on land by 3,220 Ma.

AB - The colonization of emergent continental landmass by microbial life was an evolutionary step of paramount importance in Earth history. Here we report direct fossil evidence for life on land 3,220 million years ago (Ma) in the form of terrestrial microbial mats draping fluvial conglomerates and gravelly sandstones of the Moodies Group, South Africa. Combined field, petrographic, carbon isotope and Raman spectroscopic analyses confirm the synsedimentary origin and biogenicity of these unique fossil mats as well as their fluvial habitat. The carbon isotope compositions of organic matter (δ13Corg) from these mats define a narrow range centred on −21‰, in contrast to fossil mats of marine origin from nearby tidal deposits that show δ13Corg values as low as −34‰. Bulk nitrogen isotope compositions (2 < δ15N < 5‰) are also significantly different from their marine counterparts (0 < δ15N < 3‰), which we interpret as reflecting denitrification in the terrestrial habitat, possibly of an atmospheric source of nitrate. Our results support the antiquity of a thriving terrestrial biosphere during the Palaeoarchaean and suggest that a complex and microbially driven redox landscape existed during the deposition of the Moodies Group, with distinct biogeochemical cycling occurring on land by 3,220 Ma.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85050553735&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=85050553735&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1038/s41561-018-0190-9

DO - 10.1038/s41561-018-0190-9

M3 - Article

JO - Nature Geoscience

JF - Nature Geoscience

SN - 1752-0894

ER -