Navigation Links
Mercury mineral evolution
Date:6/25/2012

Washington, D.C. -- Mineral evolution posits that Earth's near-surface mineral diversity gradually increased through an array of chemical and biological processes. A dozen different species in interstellar dust particles that formed the solar system have evolved to more than 4500 species today. Previous work from Carnegie's Bob Hazen demonstrated that up to two thirds of the known types of minerals on Earth can be directly or indirectly linked to biological activity. Now Hazen has turned his focus specifically on minerals containing the element mercury and their evolution on our planet as a result of geological and biological activity. His work, published in American Mineralogist, demonstrates that the creation of most minerals containing mercury is fundamentally linked to several episodes of supercontinent assembly over the last 3 billion years.

Mineral evolution is an approach to understanding Earth's changing near-surface geochemistry. All chemical elements were present from the start of our Solar System, but at first they formed comparatively few minerals--perhaps no more than 500 different species in the first billion years. As time passed on the planet, novel combinations of elements led to new minerals. Although as much as 50% of the mercury that contributed to Earth's accretion was lost to volatile chemical processing, 4.5 billion years of mineral evolution has led to at least 90 different mercury-containing minerals now found on Earth.

Hazen and his team examined the first-documented appearances of these 90 different mercury-containing minerals on Earth. They were able to correlate much of this new mineral creation with episodes of supercontinent formation--periods when most of Earth's dry land converged into single landmasses. They found that of the 60 mercury-containing minerals that first appeared on Earth between 2.8 billion and 65 million years ago, 50 were created during three periods of supercontinent assembly. Their analysis suggests that the evolution of new mercury-containing minerals followed periods of continental collision and mineralization associated with mountain formation.

By contrast, far fewer types of mercury-containing minerals formed during periods when these supercontinents were stable, or when they were breaking apart. And in one striking exception to this trend, the billion-year-long interval that included the assembly of the Rodinian supercontinent (approximately 1.8 to 0.8 billion years ago) saw no mercury mineralization anywhere on Earth. Hazen and his colleagues speculate that this hiatus could have been due to a sulfide-rich ocean, which quickly reacted with any available mercury and thus prevented mercury from interacting chemically with other elements.

The role of biology is also critical in understanding the mineral evolution of mercury. Although mercury is rarely directly involved in biological processe--except in some rare bacteria--its interactions with oxygen came about entirely due to the appearance of the photosynthetic process, which plants and certain bacteria use to convert sunlight into chemical energy. Mercury also has a strong affinity for carbon-based compounds that come from biological material, such as coal, shale, petroleum, and natural gas products.

"Our work shows that in the case of mercury, evolution seems to have been driven by hydrothermal activity associated with continents colliding and forming mountain ranges, as well as by the drastic increase in oxygen caused by the rise of life on Earth," Hazen said. "Future work will have to correlate specific mineral occurrences to specific tectonic events."

Future work will also focus on the minerals of other elements to see how they differ and correlate with mercury's mineral evolution, and to new strategies for locating as yet undiscovered deposits of critical resources.

"It's important to keep honing in on the ways that minerals have evolved on our planet from their simple elemental origins to the vast array in existence today," Hazen said.


'/>"/>

Contact: Robert Hazen
rhazen@ciw.edu
Carnegie Institution
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Mercury rising: Greater L.A. to heat up an average 4 to 5 degrees by mid-century
2. NIST launches new website to educate industry about alternatives to mercury thermometers
3. Mercury in dolphins: Study compares toxin levels in captive and wild sea mammals
4. Nutrient and toxin all at once: How plants absorb the perfect quantity of minerals
5. Clues to nervous system evolution found in nerve-less sponge
6. Not a 1-way street: Evolution shapes environment of Connecticut lakes
7. Big-mouthed babies drove the evolution of giant island snakes
8. Maps of Miscanthus genome offer insight into grass evolution
9. Anthropologist finds explanation for hominin brain evolution in famous fossil
10. Biologists turn back the clock to understand evolution of sex differences
11. Battle of the sexes offers evolutionary insights
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:11/14/2016)...  xG Technology, Inc. ("xG" or the "Company") (Nasdaq: ... for use in challenging operating environments, announced its results ... will hold a conference call to discuss these results ... (details below). Key Recent Accomplishments ... agreement to acquire Vislink Communication Systems. The purchase is ...
(Date:6/22/2016)... , June 22, 2016  The American College of Medical ... Show Executive Magazine as one of the fastest-growing trade ... 25-27 at the Bellagio in Las Vegas ... highest percentage of growth in each of the following categories: ... companies and number of attendees. The 2015 ACMG Annual Meeting ...
(Date:6/21/2016)... Columbia , June 21, 2016 ... to the new role of principal product architect ... named the director of customer development. Both will ... chief technical officer. The moves reflect NuData,s strategic ... in response to high customer demand and customer ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:12/6/2016)... SAN DIEGO , Dec. 6, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... Santosh Kesari , MD, PhD, FANA, FAAN to ... experience in neurology and clinical trials to assist the ... treatment of stroke. The AmnioStem product is a universal donor ... shown therapeutic activity in animal models of stroke 1 ...
(Date:12/6/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... December 06, 2016 , ... ... integration, and building management solutions headquartered in Aurora, Ohio, announced the opening of ... Springs, North Carolina, the newly constructed facility is home to 200 employees focused ...
(Date:12/5/2016)... , ... December 05, 2016 , ... ... to soon resume cervical and lumbar disc production, company President, Jake Lubinski will ... who are implanting the AxioMed disc in Cologne and Karlsruhe to discuss the ...
(Date:12/5/2016)... 2016  Eisai Inc. announced today final results ... rufinamide, which were presented at the 2016 Annual ... from December 2-6 in Houston, Texas ... and cognitive data showed that patients who received ... tolerability profiles, cognitive development and behavior, compared to ...
Breaking Biology Technology: