Journal cover Journal topic
Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2017-516
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Ideas and perspectives
05 Dec 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Biogeosciences (BG).
Ideas and perspectives: Hydrothermally driven redistribution and sequestration of early Archaean biomass – the hydrothermal pump hypothesis
Jan-Peter Duda1,2, Volker Thiel1, Thorsten Bauersachs3, Helge Mißbach1,4, Manuel Reinhardt1,4, Nadine Schäfer1,2, Martin J. Van Kranendonk5,6,7, and Joachim Reitner1,2 1Department of Geobiology, Geoscience Centre, Georg-August-University Göttingen, Goldschmidtstraße 3, 37077 Göttingen, Germany
2"Origin of Life" Group, Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Theaterstraße 7, 37073 Göttingen, Germany
3Department of Organic Geochemistry, Institute of Geosciences, Christian-Albrechts-University Kiel, Ludewig-Meyn-Straße 10, 24118 Kiel, Germany
4Department Planets and Comets, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Justus-von-Liebig-Weg 3, 37077 Göttingen, Germany
5Australian Centre for Astrobiology, University of New South Wales, Kensington, New South Wales 2052, Australia
6School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Kensington, New South Wales 2052, Australia
7Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Core to Crust Fluid Systems, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Kensington, New South Wales 2052, Australia
Abstract. Archaean hydrothermal chert veins commonly contain abundant organic carbon of uncertain origin (abiotic vs. biotic). In this study, we analysed kerogen contained in a hydrothermal chert vein from the ca. 3.5 Ga old Dresser Formation (Pilbara Craton, Western Australia). Catalytic hydropyrolysis (HyPy) of this kerogen yielded n-alkanes up to n-C22, with a sharp decrease in abundance beyond n-C18. A very similar distribution (≤ n-C18) was observed in HyPy products of pre-extracted recent bacterial biomass, while abiotic compounds synthesised via Fischer-Tropsch-type synthesis exhibited a modal distribution. We therefore propose that the original organic matter in the Archaean chert veins has a primarily microbial origin. We hypothesise that the microbially-derived organic matter accumulated in different aquatic and subsurface Dresser environments, and was then assimilated, redistributed and sequestered by hydrothermal fluids (hydrothermal pump hypothesis).

Citation: Duda, J.-P., Thiel, V., Bauersachs, T., Mißbach, H., Reinhardt, M., Schäfer, N., Van Kranendonk, M. J., and Reitner, J.: Ideas and perspectives: Hydrothermally driven redistribution and sequestration of early Archaean biomass – the hydrothermal pump hypothesis, Biogeosciences Discuss., https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2017-516, in review, 2017.
Jan-Peter Duda et al.
Jan-Peter Duda et al.
Jan-Peter Duda et al.

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Short summary
The origin of organic matter in the oldest rocks on Earth is commonly ambiguous (biotic vs abiotic). This problem culminates in the case of hydrothermal chert veins that contain abundant organic matter. Here we demonstrate a microbial origin of kerogen embedded in a 3.5 Ga-old hydrothermal chert vein. We explain this finding with the large-scale redistribution of biomass by hydrothermal fluids, emphasising the interplay between biological and abiological processes on the early Earth.
The origin of organic matter in the oldest rocks on Earth is commonly ambiguous (biotic vs...
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