- Press Release
- Nov 30, 2022
Carotenoids Through Time
This National Weather Service photo depicts a turbulent sea surface in the North Pacific during a storm. Credit: NOAA/Historic National Weather Service Collection
Current models of ocean redox on Earth suggest that anoxygenic photosynthesis in marine environments was more prevalent during Earth’s earliest time span (Precambrian) than during Earth’s current geological eon (Phanerozoic). To examine this theory, a team of scientists looked at products from carotenoid pigments in rock extracts and oils over a time period ranging from the Proterozoic (just before the rise of complex life) to the Paleogene (roughly 23 million years ago).
Carotenoids are pigments that can be found in plants, algae, and photosynthetic microorganisms. These pigments can be used as biomarkers for life in the geological record. The new study sheds light on how these carotenoid biomarkers are distributed over time, and could provide new information about the evolution of ocean redox on Earth.
The paper, “Assessing the distribution of sedimentary C40 carotenoids through time,” was published in the journal Geobiology. The study was supported in part by the Astrobiology Program through its Exobiology & Evolutionary Biologyelement and the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI).