February 29, 2024

600 Million-Year-Old Time Capsule – New Discoveries From the Himalayas Shed Light on Earth’s Past

” We dont understand much about previous oceans,” says Prakash. “How different or comparable were they compared to contemporary oceans? Were they more basic or acidic, nutrient-rich or deficient, warm or cold, and what was their chemical and isotopic composition?” Such insights could also supply clues about the Earths previous environment, and this information can be helpful for climate modeling, he includes.
Top: Field direct exposures of magnesite near Chandak hills, Kumaon. Bottom: Microphotographs of ocean water caught in magnesite crystals. Credit: Prakash Chandra Arya
The deposits discovered by the team– which date back to around the time of the Snowball Earth glaciation– showed that the sedimentary basins were deprived of calcium for an extended duration, most likely due to low riverine input. “During this time, there was no circulation in the oceans, and hence no calcium input. When there is no flow or calcium input, as more calcium speeds up, the quantity of magnesium increases,” describes Sajeev Krishnan, Professor at CEaS and corresponding author of the research study. The magnesium deposits formed at this time were able to trap paleo ocean water in their pore area as they took shape, the scientists recommend.
The calcium deprivation likewise most likely resulted in a nutrient deficiency, making it conducive for slow-growing photosynthetic cyanobacteria, which could have started gushing out more oxygen into the atmosphere. “Whenever there is an increase in the oxygen level in the environment, you will have biological radiation (development),” states Prakash.
The group looked for these deposits throughout a long stretch of the western Kumaon Himalayas, extending from Amritpur to the Milam glacier, and Dehradun to the Gangotri glacier region. Utilizing extensive lab analysis, they had the ability to verify that the deposits are an item of precipitation from ancient ocean water, and not from other locations, such as the Earths interior (for example, from submarine volcanic activity).
The researchers believe that these deposits can offer details about ancient oceanic conditions such as pH, chemistry, and isotopic composition, which have up until now only been thought or designed. Such info can help answer concerns connected to the evolution of oceans, and even life, in Earths history.
Reference: “Himalayan magnesite records abrupt cyanobacterial growth that plausibly activated the Neoproterozoic Oxygenation Event” by Prakash Chandra Arya, Claude Nambaje, S. Kiran, M. Satish-Kumar and K. Sajeev, 17 July 2023, Precambrian Research.DOI: 10.1016/ j.precamres.2023.107129.

Scientists think that between 700 and 500 million years earlier, thick sheets of ice covered the Earth for an extended duration, called the Snowball Earth glaciation (one of the significant glacial events in Earths history). What followed this was an increase in the amount of oxygen in the Earths environment, called the Second Great Oxygenation Event, which eventually led to the development of intricate life types. Far, scientists have not totally comprehended how these occasions were linked due to the lack of unspoiled fossils and the disappearance of all previous oceans that existed in the Earths history. Such insights might also supply ideas about the Earths previous climate, and this info can be helpful for environment modeling, he adds.
The deposits discovered by the team– which date back to around the time of the Snowball Earth glaciation– revealed that the sedimentary basins were deprived of calcium for a prolonged duration, most likely due to low riverine input.

Researchers from the Indian Institute of Science and Niigata University have discovered ancient ocean water trapped in mineral deposits in the Himalayas, dating back to around 600 million years ago. This discovery clarifies Earths significant oxygenation event and the Snowball Earth glaciation, providing crucial insights into the evolution of complex life and the chemical conditions of ancient oceans.
High up in the Himalayas, researchers from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and Niigata University in Japan have discovered water beads caught in mineral deposits, most likely remnants from an ancient ocean that existed around 600 million years earlier. Through an assessment of the deposits, consisting of both calcium and magnesium carbonates, the group was able to propose a possible explanation for events that may have led to a major oxygenation event in Earths history.
” We have actually discovered a time pill for paleo oceans,” states Prakash Chandra Arya, a Ph.D. trainee at the Centre for Earth Sciences (CEaS), IISc, and very first author of the study released in Precambrian Research.
Scientists think that in between 700 and 500 million years back, thick sheets of ice covered the Earth for a prolonged period, called the Snowball Earth glaciation (among the significant glacial occasions in Earths history). What followed this was a boost in the quantity of oxygen in the Earths atmosphere, called the Second Great Oxygenation Event, which eventually led to the development of intricate life kinds. Up until now, scientists have actually not totally understood how these events were connected due to the absence of unspoiled fossils and the disappearance of all past oceans that existed in the Earths history. Direct exposures of such marine rocks in the Himalayas can provide some responses.