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A 3,800-million-year isotopic record of life from carbon in sedimentary rocks

Abstract

An increased ratio of 12C to 13C, an indicator of the principal carbon-fixing reaction of photosynthesis, is found in sedimentary organic matter dating back to almost four thousand million years ago—a sign of prolific microbial life not long after the Earth's formation. Partial biological control of the terrestrial carbon cycle must have been established very early and was in full operation when the oldest sediments were formed.

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Schidlowski, M. A 3,800-million-year isotopic record of life from carbon in sedimentary rocks. Nature 333, 313–318 (1988). https://doi.org/10.1038/333313a0

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