Massive Expansion of Marine Archaea During a Mid-Cretaceous Oceanic Anoxic Event

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Science  06 Jul 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5527, pp. 92-95
DOI: 10.1126/science.1058424

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Biogeochemical and stable carbon isotopic analysis of black-shale sequences deposited during an Albian oceanic anoxic event (∼112 million years ago) indicate that up to 80 weight percent of sedimentary organic carbon is derived from marine, nonthermophilic archaea. The carbon-13 content of archaeal molecular fossils indicates that these archaea were living chemoautotrophically. Their massive expansion may have been a response to the strong stratification of the ocean during this anoxic event. Indeed, the sedimentary record of archaeal membrane lipids suggests that this anoxic event marks a time in Earth history at which certain hyperthermophilic archaea adapted to low-temperature environments.

  • * Present address: Department of Biogeochemsitry, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Celciusstrasse 1, Bremen, 28359 Germany.

  • Present address: Department of Analytical and Applied Spectroscopy, Vrije Universiteit, De Boelelaan 1083, 1081 HV Amsterdam, Netherlands.

  • Present address: Organic Geochemistry Unit, School of Chemistry, University of Bristol, Cantock's Close, Bristol BS8 1TS, UK.

  • § To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: damste{at}

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