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Evidence for oxygenic photosynthesis half a billion years before the Great Oxidation Event

Planavsky, Noah J. and Asael, Dan and Hofman, Axel and Reinhard, Christopher T. and Lalonde, Stefan V. and Knudsen, Andrew and Wang, Xiangli and Ossa, Frantz Ossa and Pecoits, Ernest and Smith, Albertus J. B. and Beukes, Nicolas J. and Bekker, Andrey and Johnson, Thomas M. and Konhauser, Kurt O. and Lyons, Timothy W. and Rouxel, Olivier J. (2014) Evidence for oxygenic photosynthesis half a billion years before the Great Oxidation Event. Nature Geoscience, 7 (4). pp. 283-286. ISSN 1752-0894. doi:10.1038/ngeo2122.

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The early Earth was characterized by the absence of oxygen in the ocean–atmosphere system, in contrast to the well-oxygenated conditions that prevail today. Atmospheric concentrations first rose to appreciable levels during the Great Oxidation Event, roughly 2.5–2.3 Gyr ago. The evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis is generally accepted to have been the ultimate cause of this rise, but it has proved difficult to constrain the timing of this evolutionary innovation. The oxidation of manganese in the water column requires substantial free oxygen concentrations, and thus any indication that Mn oxides were present in ancient environments would imply that oxygenic photosynthesis was ongoing. Mn oxides are not commonly preserved in ancient rocks, but there is a large fractionation of molybdenum isotopes associated with the sorption of Mo onto the Mn oxides that would be retained. Here we report Mo isotopes from rocks of the Sinqeni Formation, Pongola Supergroup, South Africa. These rocks formed no less than 2.95 Gyr ago in a nearshore setting. The Mo isotopic signature is consistent with interaction with Mn oxides. We therefore infer that oxygen produced through oxygenic photosynthesis began to accumulate in shallow marine settings at least half a billion years before the accumulation of significant levels of atmospheric oxygen.

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Reinhard, Christopher T.0000-0002-2632-1027
Rouxel, Olivier J.0000-0002-1431-222X
Additional Information:© 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited. Received: 24 January 2014; Accepted: 19 February 2014; Published online: 23 March 2014. N.J.P. acknowledges financial support from NSF EAR-PF; O.J.R. and D.A. from Europole Mer and ANR-10-LABX-19-01; A.H. and F.O.O. from the NRF of South Africa and Acclaim Exploration; S.V.L. from NSERC-PF and LabexMer-PF; K.O.K. from NSERC; N.J.P., T.W.L., C.T.R. and T.M.J. from NASA Exobiology; and T.W.L. from NSF EAR. C. Delvigne, J. Hancox and N. Hicks provided access to drill core and samples; E. Ponzevera and Y. Germain provided technical assistance.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR)ANR-10-LABX-19-01
National Research Foundation (South Africa)UNSPECIFIED
Acclaim ExplorationUNSPECIFIED
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)UNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:4
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20140519-113148275
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Official Citation:Planavsky, N. J., Asael, D., Hofmann, A., Reinhard, C. T., Lalonde, S. V., Knudsen, A., . . . Rouxel, O. J. (2014). Evidence for oxygenic photosynthesis half a billion years before the Great Oxidation Event. [Letter]. Nature Geosci, 7(4), 283-286. doi: 10.1038/ngeo2122
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:45823
Deposited By: Jason Perez
Deposited On:22 May 2014 20:44
Last Modified:10 Nov 2021 17:16

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