Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Life Survived Snowball Earth

Poster by the super-talented Chad Kerychuk and courtesy the Digital Dream Machine Blog. 'Superman' and 'The Fortress of Solitude' are ™ and © DC Comics.
It has been 2.3 billion years since Earth's atmosphere became infused with enough oxygen to support life as we know it. About the same time, the planet became encased in ice that some scientists speculate was more than a half-mile deep. That raises questions about whether complex life could have existed before "Snowball Earth" and survived, or if it first evolved when the snowball began to melt.

New research shows organisms called eukaryotes -- organisms of one or more complex cells that engage in sexual reproduction and are ancestors of the animal and plant species present today -- existed 50 million to 100 million years before that ice age and somehow did survive. The work also shows that the cyanobacteria, or blue-green bacteria, that put the oxygen in the atmosphere in the first place, apparently were pumping out oxygen for millions of years before that, and also survived Earth's glaciation. link

Captain America & The Avengers are ™ and © DC Comics
Ref: Biomarkers from Huronian oil-bearing fluid inclusions: An uncontaminated record of life before the Great Oxidation Event. 2006. A. Dutkiewicz et al. Geology 34: 437–440.