Biological Remnants in a Precambrian Sediment

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Science  17 Jul 1964:
Vol. 145, Issue 3629, pp. 262-263
DOI: 10.1126/science.145.3629.262


A billion-year-old shale from the Nonesuch formation at White Pine Mine, Michigan, contains microfossils, porphyrins, and optically active alkanes. Pristane and phytane, which are isoprenoid hydrocarbons found in living plants and animals, are constituents of the ancient alkanes in the Nonesuch shale; the presence of porphyrins in this Precambrian sediment suggests that photosynthetic organisms have existed for more than a billion years.