PerspectiveEarth Science

Early plants and the rise of mud

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Science  02 Mar 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6379, pp. 994-995
DOI: 10.1126/science.aas9886

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Summary

The geological record of our planet provides evidence for a handful of ways in which life has fundamentally altered processes and environments at Earth's surface. It was the evolution of photosynthesis nearly 2.5 billion years ago that oxygenated the atmosphere and oceans (1), greatly increasing the spectrum of minerals found in rocks (2). Over the past 250 million years, the production of mineral skeletons by algae in the oceans transformed the way in which sediments accumulate in marine basins (3). On page 1022 of this issue, McMahon and Davies (4) illustrate how plants, too, have left an indelible mark in the geological record, their signature written in mud.