Earth

Ancient Traces of Life Discovered Encased in a 2.5 Billion-Year-Old Ruby

By analyzing some of the world’s oldest colored gemstones, researchers at the University of Waterloo discovered carbon residues that were once ancient life, which were encased in rubies that were 2.5 billion years ago.

A research team led by Chris Yakymchuk, Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences in Waterloo, set out to study the geology of rubies to better understand the necessary conditions for ruby ​​formation. In the study conducted in Greenland, the team found a ruby ​​sample containing graphite, which contained the oldest known ruby ​​deposit in the world, which is a mineral made of pure carbon. Analysis of this carbon shows that it is a remnant of early life.

“The graphite in this ruby ​​is really unique. Yakymchuk said, this is the first time we have seen evidence of ancient life in a rock containing rubies. “The existence of graphite also provides us with more clues to determine whether rubies are How to form at this location, this is directly based on the color and chemical composition of the ruby ​​can not be done. ”

The presence of graphite allows researchers to analyze a characteristic called the isotopic composition of carbon atoms, which measures the relative number of different carbon atoms. More than 98% of carbon atoms have a mass of 12 atomic mass units, but some carbon atoms are heavier and have a mass of 13 or 14 atomic mass units.

“Organisms are best made of lighter carbon atoms because they require less energy to enter the cell,” Yakymchuk said. “Based on this increase in the carbon 12 content of graphite, we concluded that carbon atoms were once ancient life, most likely dead microorganisms, such as cyanobacteria.”

Graphite was found in rocks more than 2.5 billion years ago. At that time, there was insufficient oxygen in the atmosphere of the earth, and life only existed in microbes and algae films.

In this research, Yakymchuk’s team discovered that this kind of graphite not only connects gems with ancient life, but it is also likely to be a necessary condition for the existence of such rubies. Graphite changes the chemical composition of surrounding rocks and creates favorable conditions for the growth of rubies. Without it, the team’s model indicates that it is impossible to form rubies at this location.

The research “The growth of corundum (ruby) during the final assembly of the Archean North Atlantic Craton in southwest Greenland” was recently published in the “Geological Review of Minerals”. A supporting study “The Mystery of Corundum: Limiting the Fluid Composition Involved in Ruby Formation in the Metamorphic Mixture of Ultramafic and Aluminum Rocks” was published in the Journal of Chemical Geology in June.

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