[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The oxygen content of Earth's atmosphere has varied greatly through time, progressing from exceptionally low levels before about 2.3 billion years ago, to much higher levels afterward. In the absence of better information, we usually view the progress in Earth's oxygenation as a series of steps followed by periods of relative stasis. In contrast to this view, and as reported here, a dynamic evolution of Earth's oxygenation is recorded in ancient sediments from the Republic of Gabon from between about 2,150 and 2,080 million years ago. The oldest sediments in this sequence were deposited in well-oxygenated deep waters whereas the youngest were deposited in euxinic waters, which were globally extensive. These fluctuations in oxygenation were likely driven by the comings and goings of the Lomagundi carbon isotope excursion, the longest-lived positive δ(13)C excursion in Earth history, generating a huge oxygen source to the atmosphere. As the Lomagundi event waned, the oxygen source became a net oxygen sink as Lomagundi organic matter became oxidized, driving oxygen to low levels; this state may have persisted for 200 million years.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 09/2013; · 9.74 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Clay minerals are exceptionally well preserved in marine black shale of the ca. 2.1 Ga Francevillian Group in southeastern Gabon. The FB Formation of the Francevillian Group is characterized by smectite-rich clay minerals including randomly ordered (R0-type) and ordered (R1-type) mixed layer illite/smectite (I/S). The preservation of R0-type clay minerals suggests unexpectedly slow mineral transformation and a moderate degree of diagenesis, which is unique, considering the Paleoproterozoic age of the sedimentary rocks. R0- and R1-type, smectite-rich particles occur in stratigraphic intervals with high organic carbon content and are associated with carbonaceous filamentous structures, suggesting formation of clay–organic matter complexes. Our data suggests that clay minerals may have enhanced organic matter preservation, providing the oldest example where a link between clay minerals and organic matter sequestration can be established. Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that clay minerals enhanced organic carbon burial and aided in atmospheric oxygen accumulation through time.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The evidence for macroscopic life during the Palaeoproterozoic era (2.5-1.6 Gyr ago) is controversial. Except for the nearly 2-Gyr-old coil-shaped fossil Grypania spiralis, which may have been eukaryotic, evidence for morphological and taxonomic biodiversification of macroorganisms only occurs towards the beginning of the Mesoproterozoic era (1.6-1.0 Gyr). Here we report the discovery of centimetre-sized structures from the 2.1-Gyr-old black shales of the Palaeoproterozoic Francevillian B Formation in Gabon, which we interpret as highly organized and spatially discrete populations of colonial organisms. The structures are up to 12 cm in size and have characteristic shapes, with a simple but distinct ground pattern of flexible sheets and, usually, a permeating radial fabric. Geochemical analyses suggest that the sediments were deposited under an oxygenated water column. Carbon and sulphur isotopic data indicate that the structures were distinct biogenic objects, fossilized by pyritization early in the formation of the rock. The growth patterns deduced from the fossil morphologies suggest that the organisms showed cell-to-cell signalling and coordinated responses, as is commonly associated with multicellular organization. The Gabon fossils, occurring after the 2.45-2.32-Gyr increase in atmospheric oxygen concentration, may be seen as ancient representatives of multicellular life, which expanded so rapidly 1.5 Gyr later, in the Cambrian explosion.