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Oct 9 / Dave Schumaker

Toxic Oceans on Early Earth

NASA researchers confirmed evidence that the oceans on Earth about 1.6 billion years ago were far too toxic for advanced forms of life to live within them. The researchers examined fossilized photosynthetic pigments found in 1.6 billion-year-old rocks from the McArthur Basin, located in Northern Australia.

They found evidence of photosynthetic bacteria that require sulfides and sunlight to live. Known as purple and green sulfur bacteria because of their respective pigment colorations, these single-celled microbes can only live in environments where they simultaneously have access to sulfides and sunlight.

The researchers also found very low amounts of the fossilized remains of algae and oxygen-producing cyanobacteria. The relative scarcity of these organisms is due to poisoning by large amounts of sulfide.

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