The fossil record of igneous rock

M. Ivarsson, H. Drake, A. Neubeck, T. Sallstedt, S. Bengtson, N. M.W. Roberts, B. Rasmussen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


A growing awareness of life in deep igneous crust expands our appreciation for life's distribution in the upper geosphere through time and space, and extends the known inhabitable realm of Earth and possibly beyond. For most of life's history, until plants colonized land in the Ordovician, the deep biosphere was the largest reservoir of living biomass. This suggests that deep crustal habitats played an important role in the evolution and development of the biosphere. Paradoxically, the paleo-perspective of deep life has been largely neglected in the exploration of the deep biosphere as well as in paleontology as a whole. Here, we review the collective understanding of the fossil record in igneous crust with the aim to highlight a rising research field with great potential for substantial findings and progress in the near future. We include new results that emphasize the importance of direct or indirect dating of fossils and introduction of new techniques into the field. Currently, an incoherent record of morphological fossils- and chemofossils stretching from present to ~2.4 Ga implies the presence of an abundant and rich, yet largely unexplored, fossil record. Further investigations of deep paleo-environments will most certainly result in substantial insights into the distribution and development of biospheres throughout life's history, the early evolution of prokaryotes and eukaryotes, and Earth's early biogeochemical cycles. We emphasize the fossil record of igneous rock to give it the same status as the fossil record in sedimentary rocks, and to implement fossil investigations as standard procedures in future international drilling campaigns.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103342
JournalEarth-Science Reviews
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


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