Source: University of Washington & Astrobiology Web
Conditions suitable to support complex life may have developed in Earth’s oceans — and then faded — more than a billion years before life truly took hold, a new University of Washington-led study has found.
The findings, based on using the element selenium as a tool to measure oxygen in the distant past, may also benefit the search for signs of life beyond Earth.
In a paper published Jan. 18 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, lead author Michael Kipp, a UW doctoral student in Earth and Space Sciences, analyzed isotopic ratios of the element selenium in sedimentary rocks to measure the presence of oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere between 2 and 2.4 billion years ago.
Kipp’s UW coauthors are former Earth and space sciences postdoctoral researcher Eva Stüeken — now a faculty member at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland — and professor Roger Buick, who is also a faculty member with the UW Astrobiology Program. Their other coauthor is Andrey Bekker of the University of California, Riverside, whose original hypothesis this work helps confirm, the researchers said.