Metabolically diverse primordial microbial communities in Earth’s oldest seafloor-hydrothermal jasper

Dominic Papineau, Zhenbing She, Matthew S. Dodd, Francesco Iacoviello, John F. Slack, Erik Hauri, Paul Shearing, Crispin T.S. Little

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


The oldest putative fossils occur as hematite filaments and tubes in jasper-carbonate banded iron formations from the 4280- to 3750-Ma Nuvvuagittuq Supracrustal Belt, Québec. If biological in origin, these filaments might have affinities with modern descendants; however, if abiotic, they could indicate complex prebiotic forms on early Earth. Here, we report images of centimeter-size, autochthonous hematite filaments that are pectinate-branching, parallel-aligned, undulated, and containing Fe2+-oxides. These microstructures are considered microfossils because of their mineral associations and resemblance to younger microfossils, modern Fe-bacteria from hydrothermal environments, and the experimental products of heated Fe-oxidizing bacteria. Additional clusters of irregular hematite ellipsoids could reflect abiotic processes of silicification, producing similar structures and thus yielding an uncertain origin. Millimeter-sized chalcopyrite grains within the jasper-carbonate rocks have 34S- and 33S-enrichments consistent with microbial S-disproportionation and an O2-poor atmosphere. Collectively, the observations suggest a diverse microbial ecosystem on the primordial Earth that may be common on other planetary bodies, including Mars.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbereabm2296
JournalScience Advances
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Metabolically diverse primordial microbial communities in Earth’s oldest seafloor-hydrothermal jasper'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this