Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Scientists Develop New Method for Studying Early Life in Ancient Rocks

Scientists have developed a new method for detecting traces of primordial life in ancient rock formations using potassium.

The method relies on searching for high concentrations of potassium in ancient sedimentary rocks, rather than traditional methods that look for carbon, sulfur, or nitrogen—which can appear in ancient rocks through processes unrelated to ancient life.

University of Alberta microbiologist and geochemist Kurt Konhauser, who was a co-author on the study, explained:

The study examined clay particles from the Francevillian formation located in Gabon, on the west coast of central Africa. The 2.1-billion-year-old formation hosts well-preserved microfossils in clay. Konhauser explained:

The research was led by Jérémie Aubineau and Abder El Albani from the University of Poitiers in France. The study: Microbially Induced Potassium Enrichment in Paleoproterozoic Shales and Implications for Reverse Weathering on Early Earth, was published in Nature Communications.

Provided by: KATIE WILLIS, University of Alberta [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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Troy Oakes
Troy was born and raised in Australia and has always wanted to know why and how things work, which led him to his love for science. He is a professional photographer and enjoys taking pictures of Australia's beautiful landscapes. He is also a professional storm chaser where he currently lives in Hervey Bay, Australia.
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