Revisiting Earth’s Oxygenation 2.4 Billion Years Ago
With a NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Fellowship, Nadia Szeinbaum will go back in time
Earth experienced a profound change 2.4 billion years ago. That’s when oxygen, a by-product of photosynthesis, became an important component of its atmosphere.
The earliest photosynthetic organisms were blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria. Their descendants still exist today.
Cyanobacteria emerged billions of years ago, when Earth supported only anaerobic life and before life evolved mechanisms to cope with the toxic effects of reactive forms of oxygen. Abundant iron in ancient oceans exacerbated oxygen’s reactivity, making it an even stronger poison.
So how did ancient cyanobacteria cope with the effects of the toxic by-product of their own metabolism?
In May, Georgia Tech’s Nadia Szeinbaum began to pursue that question with a fellowship from the NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Program. She will assemble microbial communities to test the hypothesis that cyanobacteria survived rising oxygen with help from other bacteria.
Click here to read the full press release from Georgia Tech.