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A team of international scientists—including researchers at the University of St. Andrews, Syracuse University and Royal Holloway, University of London—have demonstrated a new source of food for early life on the planet.
Life on Earth relies on the availability of critical elements such as nitrogen and phosphorus. These nutrient elements are ubiquitous to all life, as they are required for the formation of DNA, the blueprints of life, and proteins, the machinery. They are originally sourced from rocks and the atmosphere, so their availability to life has fluctuated alongside significant changes in the chemistry of Earth's surface environments over geologic time.
Research - Nature - Geoscience - Supply - Elements
The research, published in Nature Geoscience, reveals how the supply of these elements directly impacted the growth of Earth's oxygen-rich atmosphere and were key to the evolution of early life on Earth.
The most dramatic change in Earth history followed the evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis, which fundamentally transformed the planet by providing a source of carbon to the biosphere and a source of oxygen to the atmosphere, the latter culminating in the Great Oxidation Event (GOE) some 2.3 billion years ago.
Importance - Nutrients - Life - Availability - Nitrogen
Despite the critical importance of nutrients to life, the availability of nitrogen and phosphorus in pre-GOE oceans is not well understood, particularly how the supply of these elements drove and/or responded to planetary oxygenation.
Using samples of exceptionally well-preserved rocks that have been associated with early evidence for oxygenic photosynthesis 2.7 billion year ago, the team of researchers examined Earth's early nitrogen cycle to decipher feedbacks associated with the initial stages of planetary oxygenation.
"There is precious little rock available from...
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