Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Origins of Life

21.11.2006
New approach helps expand study of living fossils

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.edu

Media Contact:
Ivy Kupec, Communications Director
Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science
University of Miami
T: 305.421.4704
ikupec@miami.edu

Ivy Kupec | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.rsmas.miami.edu
http://www.miami.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Large-Mouthed Fish Was Top Predator After Mass Extinction
26.07.2017 | Universität Zürich

nachricht Strength of tectonic plates may explain shape of the Tibetan Plateau, study finds
25.07.2017 | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Physicists Design Ultrafocused Pulses

Physicists working with researcher Oriol Romero-Isart devised a new simple scheme to theoretically generate arbitrarily short and focused electromagnetic fields. This new tool could be used for precise sensing and in microscopy.

Microwaves, heat radiation, light and X-radiation are examples for electromagnetic waves. Many applications require to focus the electromagnetic fields to...

Im Focus: Carbon Nanotubes Turn Electrical Current into Light-emitting Quasi-particles

Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers

Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...

Im Focus: Flexible proximity sensor creates smart surfaces

Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.

At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Physicists gain new insights into nanosystems with spherical confinement

27.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

Seeing more with PET scans: New chemistry for medical imaging

27.07.2017 | Life Sciences

Did you know that infrared heat and UV light contribute to the success of your barbecue?

27.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>