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Adv Space Res. 1992;12(4):143-56.

The initiation of biological processes on Earth: summary of empirical evidence.

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  • 1Max-Planck-Institut fur Chemie (Otto-Hahn-Institut), Mainz, Germany.

Abstract

With the currently available geological record at band, the existence of life on this planet as from at least 3.8 Gyr ago seems so firmly established as to be virtually unassailable. Specifically, various disparate lines of evidence have merged to indicate (1) that the surface of the Archaean Earth had hosted prolific microbial ecosystems as is testified by a quasi-continuous record of microbialites ("stromatolites") and associated microfossils of prokaryotic affinity over 3.5, if not 3.8 Gyr of geological history, and (2) that the sedimentary carbon record has preserved the isotopic signature of autotrophic (notably photosynthetic) carbon fixation over the same time span. With the observed enrichment of isotopically light carbon in sedimentary organic matter largely consonant with the bias in favor of 12C during photosynthesis, the mainstream of the carbon isotope record can be best explained as geochemical manifestation of the isotope discriminating properties of the ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate (RuBP) carboxylase reaction of the Calvin cycle suggesting an extreme degree of evolutionary conservatism in the biochemistry of autotrophic carbon fixation. As a consequence, partial biological control of the geochemical carbon cycle was established already during Early Archaean times and fully operative by the time of formation of the Earth's earliest sediments.

PMID:
11538134
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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