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Superheavy pyrite (δ^(34)S_(pyr) > δ^(34)S_(CAS)) in the terminal Proterozoic Nama Group, southern Namibia: A consequence of low seawater sulfate at the dawn of animal life

Ries, Justin B. and Fike, David A. and Pratt, Lisa M. and Lyons, Timothy W. and Grotzinger, John P. (2009) Superheavy pyrite (δ^(34)S_(pyr) > δ^(34)S_(CAS)) in the terminal Proterozoic Nama Group, southern Namibia: A consequence of low seawater sulfate at the dawn of animal life. Geology, 37 (8). pp. 743-746. ISSN 0091-7613.

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Sulfur isotope analysis (δ^(34)S) of well-preserved carbonates spanning an ~10 Ma interval of the terminal Proterozoic Nama Group reveals that disseminated pyrite is consistently enriched in ^(34)S relative to coeval seawater sulfate as preserved in carbonate-associated sulfate (CAS). This observation is not consistent with the current paradigm for interpreting the geologic record of sulfur isotopes, which assumes that pyrite δ^(34)S (δ^(34)S_(pyr)) will be equal to or less than co-occurring CAS δ^(34)S (δ^(34)S_(CAS)) due to the kinetic isotope effect of bacterial sulfate reduction (BSR) that favors the lighter isotope of sulfur (^(32)S) during sulfur-oxygen bond breakage. Although the precise mechanism of pyrite sulfur isotope enrichment is debatable, our combined observations of extremely ^(34)S-enriched pyrite, low bulk-rock concentrations of sulfur from CAS and pyrite, and high-frequency fluctuations in δ^(34)S_(CAS) and δ^(34)S_(pyr) throughout the Nama Group carbonates point to very low concentrations of sulfate in portions of the terminal Proterozoic ocean. The additional occurrence of ^(34)S-enriched pyrite in contemporaneous terminal Proterozoic sections from Poland and Canada reveal that low seawater sulfate may have been widespread in the oceans at this time. However, the absence of such extremely 34S-enriched pyrite from well-preserved, coeval carbonate sections in Oman suggests that such conditions were not globally uniform. Low, geographically varied concentrations of marine sulfate in terminal Proterozoic time are consistent with elevated, geographically varied concentrations of reactive, nonpyritized iron in marine shales recently reported for this interval, suggesting that high dissolved Fe(II) and low O_2 persisted in a range of marine facies as late as 543 Ma -— tens of millions of years after the origin of animals, yet prior to their major diversification in Early Cambrian time.

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Fike, David A.0000-0003-2848-0328
Grotzinger, John P.0000-0001-9324-1257
Additional Information:© 2009 Geological Society of America. Manuscript received 8 January 2009. Revised manuscript received -- Manuscript accepted 31 March 2009. We thank Gordon Love for assisting with the field work. This work was supported by funding from The Agouron Institute and CalTech to Grotzinger, and from NASA grants to Lyons and Pratt. GSA Data Repository item 2009179, a table of the geochemical data, along with supplementary text, figures, and references, is available online at
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Agouron InstituteUNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:8
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20090817-144818423
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:15120
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:08 Sep 2009 16:45
Last Modified:13 Dec 2019 02:20

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