Organic Geochemistry

Looking at lipids with lasers

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Science  28 Nov 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6213, pp. 1075
DOI: 10.1126/science.346.6213.1075-d

The remnants of microbial lipids preserved in sediments provide reliable records of past aquatic environments. Extracting trace amounts of these molecules from sediment cores is often tricky and requires a large amount of material, which causes the time resolution of these records to be rather coarse. Wörmer et al. used a high-resolution mass spectrometer coupled to a laser ionization source to track variations of nanogram levels of archaeal tetraethers at a resolution of ∼4 years. Tiny variations in lipid structure and abundance in sediments from the Mediterranean Sea with ages of over 10,000 years show that planktonic archaea there were strongly influenced by ∼200-year-long solar cycles.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 10.1073/pnas.1405237111 (2014).

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