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MIT: Oxygen's watery past
Date:8/16/2011

porting the theory that oxygen and its producers and consumers may have indeed been around long before the gas made an appearance in the atmosphere.

Waldbauer and Summons surmise that oxygen production and consumption may have occurred in the oceans for hundreds of millions of years before the atmosphere saw even a trace of the gas. They say that in all likelihood, cyanobacteria, blue-green algae living at the ocean surface, evolved the ability to produce O2 via sunlight in a process known as oxygenic photosynthesis. But instead of building up in the oceans and then seeping into the atmosphere, O2 may have been rapidly consumed by early aerobic organisms. Large oceanic and atmospheric sinks, such as iron and sulfide spewing out of subsea volcanoes, likely consumed whatever O2 was left over.

"We know all kinds of biology happens without any O2 at all," says Waldbauer, now a postdoc at Caltech. "But it's quite possible there was a vigorous cycle of O2 happening in some places, and other places it might have been completely absent."


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Contact: Caroline McCall
cmccall5@mit.edu
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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