Hydrocarbons of Biological Origin in Sediments about Two Billion Years Old

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Science  02 Apr 1965:
Vol. 148, Issue 3666, pp. 77-79
DOI: 10.1126/science.148.3666.77


Normal paraffins in the C16 to C32 range and the saturated isoprenoid hydrocarbons, pristane and phytane, have been found in chert from the Gunflint iron formation (1.9 x 109 years old) of the north shore of Lake Superior. The distribution of n-alkanes shows two maxima, one at about C18 to C19 and the other at about C22 with a minimum occurring at C20 to C21. No predominance of odd- to even-carbon-number alkanes is observed within the C16 to C32 range. The results agree with micropaleontological observations made on the Gunflint chert and provide a chemical characterization of Precambrian life existing about two eons ago.