Evidence for early life in Earth's oldest hydrothermal vent precipitates

Matthew S. Dodd, Dominic Papineau, Tor Grenne, John F. Slack, Martin Rittner, Franco Pirajno, Jonathan O'Neil, Crispin T S Little

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

146 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Although it is not known when or where life on Earth began, some of the earliest habitable environments may have been submarine-hydrothermal vents. Here we describe putative fossilized microorganisms that are at least 3,770 million and possibly 4,280 million years old in ferruginous sedimentary rocks, interpreted as seafloor-hydrothermal vent-related precipitates, from the Nuvvuagittuq belt in Quebec, Canada. These structures occur as micrometre-scale haematite tubes and filaments with morphologies and mineral assemblages similar to those of filamentous microorganisms from modern hydrothermal vent precipitates and analogous microfossils in younger rocks. The Nuvvuagittuq rocks contain isotopically light carbon in carbonate and carbonaceous material, which occurs as graphitic inclusions in diagenetic carbonate rosettes, apatite blades intergrown among carbonate rosettes and magnetite-haematite granules, and is associated with carbonate in direct contact with the putative microfossils. Collectively, these observations are consistent with an oxidized biomass and provide evidence for biological activity in submarine-hydrothermal environments more than 3,770 million years ago.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-64
Number of pages5
JournalNature
Volume543
Issue number7643
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017

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Hydrothermal Vents
Vents
Carbonates
Precipitates
Earth (planet)
Hematite
Microorganisms
Ferrosoferric Oxide
Quebec
Rocks
Sedimentary rocks
Biomass
Canada
Minerals
Apatite
Magnetite
Carbon
Bioactivity
ferric oxide

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Dodd, M. S., Papineau, D., Grenne, T., Slack, J. F., Rittner, M., Pirajno, F., ... Little, C. T. S. (2017). Evidence for early life in Earth's oldest hydrothermal vent precipitates. Nature, 543(7643), 60-64. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature21377
Dodd, Matthew S. ; Papineau, Dominic ; Grenne, Tor ; Slack, John F. ; Rittner, Martin ; Pirajno, Franco ; O'Neil, Jonathan ; Little, Crispin T S. / Evidence for early life in Earth's oldest hydrothermal vent precipitates. In: Nature. 2017 ; Vol. 543, No. 7643. pp. 60-64.
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Dodd, MS, Papineau, D, Grenne, T, Slack, JF, Rittner, M, Pirajno, F, O'Neil, J & Little, CTS 2017, 'Evidence for early life in Earth's oldest hydrothermal vent precipitates' Nature, vol. 543, no. 7643, pp. 60-64. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature21377

Evidence for early life in Earth's oldest hydrothermal vent precipitates. / Dodd, Matthew S.; Papineau, Dominic; Grenne, Tor; Slack, John F.; Rittner, Martin; Pirajno, Franco; O'Neil, Jonathan; Little, Crispin T S.

In: Nature, Vol. 543, No. 7643, 01.03.2017, p. 60-64.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Dodd MS, Papineau D, Grenne T, Slack JF, Rittner M, Pirajno F et al. Evidence for early life in Earth's oldest hydrothermal vent precipitates. Nature. 2017 Mar 1;543(7643):60-64. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature21377