The origin of life lies in unique ocean reefs, and scientists from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science have developed an approach to help investigate them better.
A new article published in the November issue of Geology reveals how Dr. Miriam Andres' stromatolite investigation — the first of its kind — has begun to “fingerprint” ancient microbial pathways, increasing the understanding of how these reef-like structures form and offering a new way to explore the origins of these living records, which are considered to be the core of most living organisms.
Modern marine stromatolites are living examples of one of the earth's oldest and most persistent widespread ecosystems. Although rare today, these layered deposits of calcium carbonate are found in shallow marine seas throughout 3.4 billion-year-old geologic records. Ancient stromatolites represent a mineral record of carbonate chemistry and the evolution of early life. In the Geology paper, Dr. Andres and colleagues point out that incorrect assumptions have been made in interpreting stromatolite data: phototrophs, or oxygen-producers, were actually dominated by heterotrophs, or oxygen-consumers, in their contribution to stromatolite formation.
“The motivation for this study is that in ancient stromatolites, direct evidence of microbial activity is lacking,” Dr. Andres explained. “Stable isotopes have provided a powerful tool to ‘fingerprint’ microbial pathways and better understand the sedimentary structures we see in the geologic record. Surprisingly, no study to date has documented this process for modern marine stromatolites.”
Stromatolites are the oldest known macrofossils, dating back over three billion years. Dominating the fossil record for 80 percent of our planet's history, stromatolites formed massive reefs in this plane's primitive oceans. While stromatolites look much like coral reefs, they are actually formed from living microorganisms, both animal and plant-like. These microorganisms trap and bind sand grains together and/or produce calcium carbonate to form laminated limestone mounds.
“We knew that the stromatolite ecosystem was dominated by photosynthetic cyanobacteria, and expected to see this reflected in a positive carbon isotopic value. However, we saw the exact opposite.” Andres said.
“We still don't understand how stromatolites calicify,” Dr. Andres said, referring to her research plans. “This information will be key to understanding how organisms form skeletons and when this process — leaving lasting impressions of historical biological data — first began.”
More information on stromatolites can be found at http://stromatolites.info.
Rosenstiel School is part of the University of Miami and, since its founding in the 1940s, has grown into one of the world's premier marine and atmospheric research institutions. See http://www.rsmas.miami.eduMedia Contact:
Seabed mining could destroy ecosystems
23.01.2018 | University of Exeter
How climate change weakens coral 'immune systems'
23.01.2018 | Ohio State University
Physicists have developed a technique based on optical microscopy that can be used to create images of atoms on the nanoscale. In particular, the new method allows the imaging of quantum dots in a semiconductor chip. Together with colleagues from the University of Bochum, scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute reported the findings in the journal Nature Photonics.
Microscopes allow us to see structures that are otherwise invisible to the human eye. However, conventional optical microscopes cannot be used to image...
On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
23.01.2018 | Life Sciences
23.01.2018 | Earth Sciences
23.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy