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ODU's Noffke Authors Article in the Journal Nature About Earliest Life

Old Dominion University geobiologist Nora Noffke examines research about Earth's earliest life in an article in the Feb. 19 issue of the prestigious international journal Nature.

Noffke's article titled "An Astrobiologist Considers Life's Oldest Oxygen" appears in the Journal Club section of the publication. It reviews the research of a team led by Jacob Waldbauer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts that focuses on biomarkers in rocks that are 2.6 billion years old.

Waldbauer and his colleagues show that the oxygen-producing microbes called cyanobacteria had colonized the seafloor of Earth's ancient oceans at least by 2.6 billion years ago. Free oxygen has been available in the atmosphere ever since and this set the stage for evolution of more complex organisms, according to Noffke.

If oxygen was readily available on Earth 2.6 billion years ago, this is at least 200 million years before a persistent oxygen-containing atmosphere is thought to have developed.

Noffke's own research examining fossil microbial mats from South Africa suggests that cyanobacteria were already highly diverse 2.9 billion years ago. But conclusive proof of this depends on the discovery of same-period biomarkers.

This article was posted on: February 19, 2009

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