Friday, December 20, 2019

Readings: Erectus SE Asia, Devonian Fossil Forest, Archean Iron Formations

Some selected readings:

1) New dates of Homo erectus from Ngandong Java shows late surviving populations until 117,000 to 108,000 years ago. A short clean summary by Razib Khan on SE Asian hominin diversity.

Southeast Asia during the Eemian was a hominin paradise.

Paper: Last appearance of Homo erectus at Ngandong, Java, 117,000–108,000 years ago.

2) Exquisite preservation of one of the earliest forests from the Mid Devonian ( ~385 million years ago) of New York containing a modern looking root system.

Paper - Mid-Devonian Archaeopteris Roots Signal Revolutionary Change in Earliest Fossil Forests.

Write up : The World’s Oldest Forest Has 385-Million-Year-Old Tree Roots.

3) Before around 2.3 billion years ago there was very little oxygen in the atmosphere. This was a time before the evolutionary invention of oxygenic photosynthesis wherein bacteria harvest electrons from H2O and release oxygen as a byproduct. Instead, during this time another photosynthesis pathway known as photoferrotrophy was prevalent. Here, bacteria use light and ferrous iron (Fe+2) to fix CO2 as biomass, releasing ferric iron (Fe+3) as byproduct. This ferric iron then accumulated to form large iron deposits. But these deposits lack organic matter. How to explain this if the iron was being produced from a biomass? Scientists point to a role of silica. At that time the oceans were saturated in free silica. Experimental work shows that in the presence of free silica cell surfaces repel iron hydroxides, thus creating a source of organic matter free iron deposits. This organic matter then was acted upon by methane producing microbes. The methane released kept the temperature of the earth warmer than it would have been under a dim early sun.

Fascinating story of the feedback between geology and evolution.

Photoferrotrophy, deposition of banded iron formations, and methane production in Archean oceans.

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