Biogeosciences, 15, 1535-1548, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-15-1535-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Ideas and perspectives
15 Mar 2018
Ideas and perspectives: hydrothermally driven redistribution and sequestration of early Archaean biomass – the “hydrothermal pump hypothesis”
Jan-Peter Duda1,2, Volker Thiel1, Thorsten Bauersachs3, Helge Mißbach1,4, Manuel Reinhardt1,4, Nadine Schäfer1,2, Martin J. Van Kranendonk5,6,7, and Joachim Reitner1,2 1Department of Geobiology, Geoscience Centre, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Goldschmidtstraße 3, 37077 Göttingen, Germany
2“Origin of Life” Group, Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Theaterstraße 7, 37073 Göttingen, Germany
3Department of Organic Geochemistry, Institute of Geosciences, Christian-Albrechts-Universität Kiel, Ludewig-Meyn-Straße 10, 24118 Kiel, Germany
4Department Planets and Comets, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Justus-von-Liebig-Weg 3, 37077 Göttingen, Germany
5Australian Centre for Astrobiology, University of New South Wales, Kensington, New South Wales 2052, Australia
6School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Kensington, New South Wales 2052, Australia
7Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Core to Crust Fluid Systems, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Kensington, New South Wales 2052, Australia
Abstract. Archaean hydrothermal chert veins commonly contain abundant organic carbon of uncertain origin (abiotic vs. biotic). In this study, we analysed kerogen contained in a hydrothermal chert vein from the ca. 3.5 Ga Dresser Formation (Pilbara Craton, Western Australia). Catalytic hydropyrolysis (HyPy) of this kerogen yielded n-alkanes up to n-C22, with a sharp decrease in abundance beyond n-C18. This distribution ( ≤  n-C18) is very similar to that observed in HyPy products of recent bacterial biomass, which was used as reference material, whereas it differs markedly from the unimodal distribution of abiotic compounds experimentally formed via Fischer–Tropsch-type synthesis. We therefore propose that the organic matter in the Archaean chert veins has a primarily microbial origin. The microbially derived organic matter accumulated in anoxic aquatic (surface and/or subsurface) environments and was then assimilated, redistributed and sequestered by the hydrothermal fluids (hydrothermal pump hypothesis).
Citation: Duda, J.-P., Thiel, V., Bauersachs, T., Mißbach, H., Reinhardt, M., Schäfer, N., Van Kranendonk, M. J., and Reitner, J.: Ideas and perspectives: hydrothermally driven redistribution and sequestration of early Archaean biomass – the “hydrothermal pump hypothesis”, Biogeosciences, 15, 1535-1548, https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-15-1535-2018, 2018.
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Short summary
The origin of organic matter in the oldest rocks on Earth is commonly ambiguous (biotic vs. abiotic). This problem culminates in the case of hydrothermal chert veins that contain abundant organic matter. Here we demonstrate a microbial origin of kerogen embedded in a 3.5 Gyr old hydrothermal chert vein. We explain this finding with the large-scale redistribution of biomass by hydrothermal fluids, emphasizing the interplay between biological and abiological processes on the early Earth.
The origin of organic matter in the oldest rocks on Earth is commonly ambiguous (biotic vs....
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