October 17, 2019 | 4:19 PM IST

Biosignature discovery can help track ancient life preserved in rocks

Scientists have discovered a new biosignature that can now help determine the remains of ancient life preserved in rocks over 3,700 years old, with organic material often turning into carbon-based mineral graphite and also help identify life in the entire solar system.

The study was published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters and the team analysed ten rock samples of banded iron formations from Canada, India, China, Finland, the US and Greenland spanning over 2,000 million years of history, a report said.

Dr Dominic Papineau from the University College London in the United Kingdom said that life on Earth is all carbon-based and overtime, it decomposes into different substances, such as carbonate apatite and oil. These get trapped in sedimentary rocks and the oil becomes graphite.

The team investigated the composition of BIF rocks as they are almost always of Precambrian age (4,600 million years old to 541 million years old) and record information about the oldest environments on Earth. They analysed the composition of rocks ranging from 1,800 million years old to over 3,800 million years old using a range of methods involving photons, electrons, and ions to characterise the composition of graphite and other minerals of potential biogenic origin.

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