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Large sulfur isotope fractionations associated with Neoarchean microbial sulfate reduction.

Science (New York, N.Y.) (2014-11-08)
Iadviga Zhelezinskaia, Alan J Kaufman, James Farquhar, John Cliff
ABSTRACT

The minor extent of sulfur isotope fractionation preserved in many Neoarchean sedimentary successions suggests that sulfate-reducing microorganisms played an insignificant role in ancient marine environments, despite evidence that these organisms evolved much earlier. We present bulk, microdrilled, and ion probe sulfur isotope data from carbonate-associated pyrite in the ~2.5-billion-year-old Batatal Formation of Brazil, revealing large mass-dependent fractionations (approaching 50 per mil) associated with microbial sulfate reduction, as well as consistently negative Δ(33)S values (~ -2 per mil) indicative of atmospheric photochemical reactions. Persistent (33)S depletion through ~60 meters of shallow marine carbonate implies long-term stability of seawater sulfate abundance and isotope composition. In contrast, a negative Δ(33)S excursion in lower Batatal strata indicates a response time of ~40,000 to 150,000 years, suggesting Neoarchean sulfate concentrations between ~1 and 10 μM.

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