Slash Boxes

SoylentNews is people

posted by cmn32480 on Saturday July 30 2016, @04:04PM   Printer-friendly
from the peppered-with-deposits dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Canadian scientists have found a way to analyze air from the ancient Earth's atmosphere that was trapped in salt crystals nearly a billion years ago.

What they found may have implications for the origin of complex life.

The air, which has been preserved, undisturbed, in tiny pockets in the crystals for about 815 million years, appears to contain 10.9 per cent oxygen — just half the amount in the atmosphere today.

But it's about five times more than scientists expected for that time period, which is about 200 million years before the first known multicellular fossils.

"I'm surprised and excited," said Nigel Blamey, a professor of earth sciences at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont., who co-led the study with fellow Brock geochemist Uwe Brand.

Brand says the discovery answers a key question about the evolution of complex life — did animals arise before or after the oxygen needed to support larger, more complex organisms?

"And now with our research and our result, we know there was sufficient oxygen before they arose," he said, adding that the higher oxygen levels would have allowed animals to diversify and become more complex.

That means it may be possible to find multicellular fossils older than the oldest that are currently known.

"Now paleobiologists will have reason to go looking for rocks with original traces of these first evolutionary steps," Brand said.

The team's results are published in the journal Geology.

When salty water called brine evaporates from a shallow pool, it forms crystals of salt called halite — very similar to the kind we sprinkle on our food. In the process, it often traps tiny bubbles of fluid or air from the atmosphere at the time it forms.

Original Submission

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
Display Options Threshold/Breakthrough Mark All as Read Mark All as Unread
The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30 2016, @06:46PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30 2016, @06:46PM (#382014)

    10,9% oxygen is still breathable. It is the equivalent to the effective oxygen percentage (the concentrations of atmosphere remain the same everywhere no matter the altitude, but the human body can only process this much oxygen due to the pressure difference) at La Paz, Bolivia.

    The lack of oxygen results in the short, squarish appearance and rather low intelligence of people in the Andes compared to their brethren on the coast (or along the Amazon) as an evolutionary by-product, but it's not completely uninhabitable for people adapted to lower elevations. It is the only city in the world I have visited where they have oxygen tanks outside each gate at the airport for visitors who cannot adapt quickly enough. Drink plenty of water to increase red blood cell production and after 2 weeks time you will not feel the effects.

    I imagine any time traveller would have to carry a pressure suit and maybe a breathing apparatus to visit this era anyway. Future humans who decided to colonize ancient coastal Mars found that out the hard way. None of the ancient sci-fi books told them that the atmosphere wouldn't be breathable.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30 2016, @08:34PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30 2016, @08:34PM (#382043)

    I think one of the issues with oxygen is that oxygen is toxic, it causes oxidation (hydrogen peroxide and superoxide form), unless you have the means to counter it (you need superoxide dismutase and catalase to break down/change these oxidizers into something harmless).

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30 2016, @10:32PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30 2016, @10:32PM (#382083)

      Oxygen is toxic, and these rocks prove that the amount in the atmosphere today is double what it should be. Could human activities be adding to oxygen pollution? There's only one Earth. If we get this wrong we're doomed.