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Late Precambrian Oxygenation; Inception of the Clay Mineral Factory

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Science  10 Mar 2006:
Vol. 311, Issue 5766, pp. 1446-1449
DOI: 10.1126/science.1118929

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Abstract

An enigmatic stepwise increase in oxygen in the late Precambrian is widely considered a prerequisite for the expansion of animal life. Accumulation of oxygen requires organic matter burial in sediments, which is largely controlled by the sheltering or preservational effects of detrital clay minerals in modern marine continental margin depocenters. Here, we show mineralogical and geochemical evidence for an increase in clay mineral deposition in the Neoproterozoic that immediately predated the first metazoans. Today most clay minerals originate in biologically active soils, so initial expansion of a primitive land biota would greatly enhance production of pedogenic clay minerals (the “clay mineral factory”), leading to increased marine burial of organic carbon via mineral surface preservation.

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